Why Writers Need to Know the Product Inside and Out
The release of a new product always fills me with excitement. It means the opportunity to write new text—the flow in the product and the marketing materials to promote it. Plus, I have a chance to fully immerse myself in something as yet unexplored. What writer out there doesn’t relish the chance to learn?
Sadly, throughout my career I’ve seen a lot of text that shows little evidence that the writer understands the product: text in a marketing landing page promising things that the product can’t deliver, a flow that fails to cover the most essential and important features of the product, a knowledge base article that contradicts itself.
And the result is frustration. A lot of it. And if I’m frustrated reading that text, I can only imagine how irritated and confused the reader is going to be.
01. Be a pro
One of Wix’s core values is “Be a pro.” As writers, we have a professional responsibility to become experts in the material we write about. Some of the best work I see at Wix is created by writers who have fully immersed themselves in the product. They know it inside and out. They have considered the type of user who’ll use it, how they accessed the product, how they’re feeling and even the kinds of questions that will come up when they use it.
This kind of immersion results in robust text: text that is genuinely meaningful and useful, free of “fluff” and user-centric.
02. Use the product
In the last few months, I’ve interviewed a number of writers for various positions and I always ask the question, “Have you used the product?” You’d be surprised at how many people say, “No.”
Now, in theory, that wouldn’t be a problem except that before the interview, they’ve completed (successfully, I might add), a writing test about Wix products. So how can they write about products they’ve never used? The reason they make it to the interview stage is that they have great writing potential, but the lack of research really brings them down.
If you’ve ever read a set of instructions that made you think, “Huh?”, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. When a writer has not used the product they’re writing about, or hasn’t used it extensively, that really shows in the text.
03. Build your own glossary
Over a year ago, Wix was getting ready to officially launch Wix Code to the world. For a product this huge, we needed to create a lot of marketing materials, and this meant a lot of text. With the guidance of the head of content, our CMO and the product marketing manager, I created a “phrase guide” for the product. This list of phrases gave me and other writers guidance about how to refer to the product and its features; it also told us which terminology to stay away from.
Having this guide allowed me to write about the product and create multiple content types in a consistent and meaningful way. To ensure I was telling one, cohesive story, I would refer back to the glossary as I wrote emails, landing pages, video scripts and more.
04. Talk to your team
In-house writers like those at Wix don’t work in silos. We work in teams that consist of other writers, designers, developers, product managers, product marketing managers and a whole lot more. And all of these people have insights and perspective about the product that you may not always have. So why not use their expertise?
Disclaimer: I’m not implying you should ask the frontend developer on your team to review your text. What I’m suggesting is that you ask them what some of the limitations and strengths of the product are. And why not ask the product manager what plans they have to grow the product in future? How about getting a feel for the visual look and feel of the product from the UX designer?
The more information you have, the more you can create text that is really impactful, meaningful and useful.
Here’s the bottom line
If you want to be an expert writer, a real champion of the text: Know. Your. Shit.
By Na'ama Oren