A guide to UX writing for designers
Are you tired of encountering error messages that make no sense? Frustrated by 404 error pages that offer no guidance on what to do next? Like most of us, you’ve probably come across messages that feel like they were written for robots.
The words and language we interact with when using digital products play a huge role in shaping our experiences. And if you want to keep your users engaged, that’s where UX writing comes in.
It’s not just about grammar and spelling, it’s about crafting the perfect copy that guides users through their journey and makes the experience as enjoyable as possible.
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of UX writing, share some best practices, talk about how designers can work with UX writers, and even improve their own writing skills.
UX writing is a key factor in good product design that shouldn’t be ignored. The quality and tone of the language used can mean the difference between a user effortlessly navigating through the product or giving up in frustration. Poorly written copy can cause confusion, lead to wrong actions, and ultimately, make users abandon the product.
But, with great UX writing, users can smoothly sail through the product, completing their tasks with ease. Clear and concise language, straightforward instructions, descriptive error messages, and useful feedback all contribute to a positive user experience.
Case study: Wix
Jenni Nadler, the Head of UX Writing at Wix, wrote an article about how her team took on the monumental task of changing thousands of error messages in their product with the goal of making them more user-friendly.
The previous error messages were generic, filled with technical jargon, and written in an inappropriate tone. But, with the update, the error messages transformed into personalized, empathetic, and solution-driven messages that better resonated with the user.
Jenni and her team made sure that the messages provided context to the user and used language that was reassuring and easy to understand. Thanks to this update, the users felt understood and guided, rather than left in the dark.
Put the user first
The most important UX writing best practice is to always keep the user in mind. Ask yourself, would they understand this? Is the language too technical? Is it too confusing?
Write in a clear and concise manner, using simple language and avoiding jargon. This ensures that users can understand the text and instructions easily and without confusion.
Consistency is key
Keep the same language and terminology throughout the product, so users don’t get confused or lost. This will help to create a sense of familiarity for the user. Consistency also applies to the tone and style of the messaging.
For example, if the product is targeted at children, the language should be simple and easy to understand, whereas if it is targeted at a professional audience, the language can be more formal.
Microcopy refers to the small bits of text that users encounter throughout a product. This includes things like button labels, error messages, and form field labels. These tiny details can make a big impact on the user experience.
For example, form field labels tell the user what information is needed in each field, and placeholder text gives an example of what to put in the field to help the user fill out the form.
Microcopy should be clear, concise, and to the point. It should also provide helpful feedback to the user, such as telling them what went wrong if they make a mistake.
Think of microcopy as the first impression users get when they interact with your product. It sets the tone for their experience, so it’s crucial to get it right. Poorly written microcopy can cause confusion and ultimately lead users to abandon the app.
Like with any other cross-functional teammate, clear and open communication is key to successful collaboration between designers and UX writers.
Talk about the bigger picture, and the vision for the product or feature that you’re working on, and make sure that the language used is consistent with the design.
Similar to a design system, UX writers can provide guidance on how to approach copy in different scenarios and identify areas in your designs where language may be confusing or misused.
By working together, designers and writers can elevate the overall user experience by strategically applying language and microcopy that supports the product.
As a designer, you might not think about writing as being a necessary part of your job, but the truth is, writing good copy leads to a better overall user experience. For designers focused on building out their T-shaped skillset, UX writing is a valuable skill to develop.
One way for designers to improve their UX writing skills is to approach copy the same way you would approach designing a new feature.
- Identify the context where the copy will be used, such as an informative toast message during a file upload or an error message after failing to perform an action. Look for examples of similar copy elsewhere in your product and reuse it to keep messaging consistent.
- Understand the purpose of the copy, such as providing instructions to the user, guiding them through a flow, or describing an image. With this information, you’ll be able to approach the copy in a way that makes sense to the user.
- Read and study examples of good UX writing. Look at the products you use and pay attention to how the language is presented. By practicing, you’ll start to understand the importance of clear, concise language and how it can be used to improve the user experience.
It’s all about learning from industry examples and practicing. With time and effort, you’ll be able to master the art of UX writing and take your designs to the next level.
It’s also worth noting that UX writing is not just limited to digital products, but it’s also necessary for physical products and service interactions.
Take food packaging, for example. Are the cooking instructions clear and easy to understand? Do they help you prepare the meal without any confusion? Are you aware of safe handling instructions or allergy warnings?
And think about when you call a customer service centre. How does the representative speak to you? Is their tone friendly and helpful?
These little details can make a big difference in how satisfied you are with a product or service. Because language and tone can greatly impact your impression and satisfaction, it’s important that they are well thought out.
The role of language in product design cannot be ignored. It helps guide users through products and provides feedback, making the overall experience easier to understand and enjoyable. As a designer, you can’t afford to overlook it.
Tech companies are starting to realize this and they’re investing more in UX writing. Some companies have specialized UX writing teams, while others expect product designers to take on the responsibility.
But no matter the approach, the goal is the same — to create products that users love.
Thanks for reading!
Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to never miss another article on UX design, career tips, life lessons, and more!