UX Writers and UX Designers: Why We’re Better Together
UX writers and UX designers share a common goal—to create the best possible experience for our users. But despite this mutual objective, we don’t always collaborate when working on a project. Too often, writers and designers do their work independently, without thinking about the bigger picture.
As a UX writer, I’ve seen first-hand how developing a great relationship with designers means the difference between a good product and a great one. Writers and designers may have very different viewpoints about how to execute the tasks at hand, but our users benefit when our partnership is strong. In this article, I’ll share a UX case study from my work here at Wix.com and offer some tips on how to encourage collaboration between UX designers and writers.
UX writer and designer collaboration: The case study
I work as the sole UX writer on the Wix Stores team, along with 3 UX designers, 6 product managers and 1 visual product designer. Wix Stores provides a platform where merchants of all sizes can create an online store.
Recently, we set out to redesign a number of panels within the Wix Editor that were created years ago. The goal was to provide users with a more updated version of what they were already seeing today, but with some new functionalities and better UX.
This project presented some interesting challenges: we needed to keep the functionality of the new design as close as possible to the old one and we had a very short timeline.
Why not just redesign from scratch?
To ensure a seamless transition for our users, we wanted them to be minimally affected by the new version of Wix Stores. We sought to avoid a situation where they would need to update their settings after the change. Additionally, a more thorough redesign would have added months of dev-time and pushed back the release.
The project created a great opportunity for us to revisit the words we used in the past and adjust the hierarchy of the various elements on the screen to better fit our current needs. The product manager started by setting up the team: 2 UX designers, 1 UX writer (me) and 3-4 developers.
A look at how designers and writers partner at Wix
Working on this project made me consider the best practices we use at Wix to get a great final result. Whether you’re a writer or designer, these tips can help you create a smoother workflow and a better final product in your next UX project:
01. Sit in the same space
You have your headphones on, you’re going through some wireframes and pondering about the best way to name a certain field or label. You have a few options but you really need another opinion. You take your headphones off and just throw your question out to whomever is sitting around you.
Wouldn’t it be great if the people in the room had similar interests and could provide useful and relevant feedback? Here at Wix Stores, UX/UI designers, the UX writer and our product managers sit in the same room, so I can bounce ideas off my “roommates” constantly — and they know exactly what I’m looking for.
Use their brains
Other UX designers and writers are great resources for information about human behaviors and interactions. Use them. Ask them. They are happy to help. Plus, sitting in the same room together helps us grow more comfortable with each other and strengthen our relationships. The more we work with each other, the smoother our work becomes.
Let’s go back to the case study:
We had a short timeline and many panels to redesign. Because we were all in the same room, we could constantly rethink ideas and work through obstacles as they arose. Waiting for our weekly update meetings would never have cut it with the timelines we had.
If you have a say in where you sit, make it happen. Try to sit near everyone on your team, or at least next to other UX experts who can help when you’re stuck. It increases productivity and will be a huge benefit for the whole team—and for the end users who will be interacting with your product.
02. Research together
Before my team deep-dives into the creation process of any project, we do extensive research to map out user interactions and all possible use cases. This phase is extremely important because it gives the team designated time to brainstorm, kick ideas around and do some really valuable constructive thinking.
Writers and designers research in different ways. While designers look at layouts, colors, design, screens and behaviors, writers analyze everything text-related—terminology, vocabulary, sentence length, tool tip usage, where words are placed and more.
We all start on the same page
On my team, we come back together and discuss findings. Everything is recorded on a shared research document and presented to the product team. We’ll refer back to the document throughout the process to help us make educated decisions.
This really helps us start off on the right foot and kick off the design phase with the right stuff. It’s the convergence of our findings and the earliest part of the process where we come together to discuss where we go next.
03. Get your text finalized at the early stage of design
Writers and designers are both present for all stages of the product creation, from kickoff, research and wireframes to the release of the product. Wireframes don’t move to the next stage until there’s a green light from the different teams. If our true goal is to put our users first and give them a great UX, we need to understand each other’s work, share feedback and touch base throughout the wireframe process.
If it’s difficult to write, the design should be reconsidered
It’s important that text is almost-final for early sets of wireframes. Working out how to write something unlocks user pain points. For example, the UX designer added a subtitle text placeholder which had 2-3 thoughts in it, instead of 1 underlying action item. As a writer, you know that you can’t put together all these messages in the space allotted.
If you’re having a tough time explaining something to your audience, it’s an indication that the design may need a rework. To avoid overwhelming users, you can consider adding another screen to split up the flow or adjusting the order or hierarchy of the elements on the screen. Your writing will essentially affect the design.
Get content in early
Adding text too late in the process—after the wireframes are ready—will leave little or no time for changes in the design. Make sure you’re 100% aligned with your designers at an early stage.
04. UX usability testing and QA
Before any product is released, it goes through a series of QA checks and product reviews. Writers and designers come in for the UX QA. Designers make sure that the UI looks as it should and writers confirm that the content is clear, in place and not cut off.
It’s a joint effort between writers and designers to make sure the product meets the quality standards of Wix. For example, during Text QA we often discover texts that don’t fit into the design after translation. In those cases, we have to go back and alter the design. Good relationships among the team members are key when these types of issues arise.
OK, tell me why…
During the UX QA of the Wix Stores project, we discovered an issue with the word “Cart.” This tiny word in English is “Carrinho” in Portuguese and “Warenkorb” in German—each more than double the amount of letters. The English looked great and passed QA, but it didn’t pass in other languages so the designers and writers had to find a solution by increasing the size of the frames that surrounded the words.
Is it usable?
Once the product passes all quality testing, we release it to a small number of users and perform usability testing. Together, we test and evaluate what we built and for the first time, see how users interact with it. Do they understand the words? Are they having a hard time finding what they need? Usability testing helps us gain many insights about the decisions we made on the way and how we built the product.
1 destination, 2 ways of getting there
Designers start a new project with a blank canvas, writers with a blank page. But both of us start by trying to place ourselves deep in the human mind and think like our users. When we’re deeply immersed in any project, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a new user who is seeing a screen for the first time. While I’m stuck choosing just the right word, a designer might be agonizing over the right shade of blue. But both of us can lose sight of the larger goal. That’s why it’s important to use the resources around us; our teammates can help us keep our eyes on the ball!
Rina Abadi Sova, UX Writer at Wix