Insights from an Accidental UX Writer
I’d been a Wix employee for about 30 minutes when I was told I’d been hired as a UX, rather than marketing writer. I had assumed that my previous marketing experience would have seen me placed on that team, but to my surprise and slight trepidation, a future in UX writing beckoned. What is a UX writer, I pondered?
I earnestly engaged in some research (ok, I Googled “What is UX writing?”) and found that this was a relatively new and clearly growing field of writing. Traditionally referred to as simply content or product writing, I could see that UX writing was definitely in vogue. I confided in my team leader that I had no previous UX writing experience and her reply has stuck with me ever since, “It’s like a logic puzzle, except with words, which you need to solve, day after day.” Wise words.
A year into my UX writing career, I can offer the following 5 insights:
01. It’s not as easy as it sounds
Just add some text to explain how the product works. What could be simpler? Often, as UX writers, we have to explain complex functionality and detailed processes…in minimal text. It’s not easy!
02. It often takes longer than you think
As a student, I worked on the basis that the more I had to write, the longer it would take. UX writing is the exact opposite. If I could write as much as I wanted on a product, I could do it quickly. The skill in UX writing is being able to condense your messaging into minimum text, while retaining the tone and conveying the necessary information.
03. One word can drive you mad
To use a real-time example, we’re currently working on an on-boarding wizard to help our users create services within the Wix Bookings App. We need to give the wizard button a name. Should we call it “Wizard”? Would that make sense to our users? Should we call it “Help?” Or would that suggest the user will be transferred to Support? Should we ask “Not Sure?” or will that leave our users feeling inadequate? This one button, 2 words at most, is a great example of how much thought UX writers need to put into their words — every single one of them.
04. Even colleagues don’t always understand the complexity of UX
We work with product managers, designers, developers and many other professionals. Text can sometimes be considered an after-thought or a simple overlay. As a UX writer, one has to recognize that colleagues won’t always understand our role. If you’re new to the field, I recommend being as proactive as possible and get involved in projects at the earliest opportunity. Attend the kick off meeting and sit with the designer frequently. Joining a project early allows you to avoid rushed deadlines and provides the time and space needed to refine your text the way you want it.
05. Your words make a difference
With UX writing, there is a purpose to every word we write. Looking at the big picture we all have KPIs to achieve and often a subtle text change or a rewritten tooltip can have a direct impact on millions of users — and the bottom line. This is when you realize the power of your words. Remember, words matter.
Andrew Hughes, UX Writer