The role of the 'User Experience Writer' has emerged over the last couple of years along with the increase in popularity of designing 'content-first' (or just the popularity of design in general?). The role of the UX writer involves using words to design interfaces by crafting copy that helps users achieve a goal. For a definition, we can look to how Google define the role in a UX Writer job description:
"UX Writers advocate for Google design and help shape product experiences by crafting copy that helps users complete the task at hand."
By this definition, a UX Writer would benefit from a good grounding in user experience design, and also a decent understanding of copy writing and written communication. It's definitely a great opportunity for copywriters and designers a like - but what is it really about?
UX Writing: Writing for Design
The role of the UX Writer can have a great impact at the start of the design process, even before creating wireframes. It's an important role because in order to create even more usable interfaces, content can't be an afterthought. For instance, if you think of a website as a conversation with a user, the content must, of course, come first - and not the layout.
When you plan what you want to communicate to your audience, words are often the best starting point, from which you can build your layout. Fabricio Teixeira, Designer at R/GA, framed this really well in his article "Story Frames before Wireframes", suggesting that by starting designs in a text editor, we can tell better stories through our UIs:
Browsing through a well-crafted interface is like reading a great story (or flipping through a great comic book). As designers, why are we not incorporating screenwriting techniques more often into our process?
So in a nutshell, UX writing is:
- Writing for design, where words have purpose, driven by user goals
- The opposite of sales and marketing jargon
- Takes into account the user's thought process and emotions
So where has all the demand come from, and why only now?
Emergence of the UX Writer
The actual practical work a 'UX Writer' carries out isn't at all new - it's the recognition of the work as a full-time job role, with this title that is.
The role has become more frequent on job boards, with companies such as Google, Dropbox and Paypal initially leading the way. Here's just some of the companies looking for writers:
Despite most the roles above being located in the US, the last one in fact is based in Mumbai, India. This isn't the only example either, we've seen the role become increasingly common all over the world. For example, Ben Moran, who himself is a UX Writer, explored the situation in the UK. He talks about the relationship between the traditional copywriter and design in Britain, and how the UX Writer role is emerging in the country:
Right now is a very interesting time to be a copywriter in the UK. As an industry, copywriting seems to be going through something of an identity crisis. On the one hand, you have the copywriting old guard: extremely skilled and experienced craftspeople who cut their teeth in the Golden Age of Advertising, or have followed in the footsteps of those who did.
Effective UX Writing can improve the user experience of a product in a number of ways. Here's a few quick examples:
Making things feel human
When you sign up to Product Hunt, they welcome you with their own tone and personality, creating the feeling that there are humans on the other side.
Mailchimp do this great too! Here's what happens when you schedule an email:
Guide the user
Mailchimp make sure the user know's what the problem is at all times, with really helpful suggestions based on the likely error.
Bits of microcopy can be introduced to add a bit more personality too, and make the user smile! Here's a couple examples of that:
When you're above 29, tumblr flip the 'years old' to 'years young':
Google do something fun too when you overuse punctuation in an email address:
The fact that UX Writing can improve user experience of a product in so many ways means there's a lot of work to be done in the area where writing meets design. The above are some of the more obvious examples, but there's much more to it.
Is it for you?
Here on uxwriter.cc we'll be curating and creating a range of material based around UX writing, which you can use for inspiration and guidance to find out if it's something you'd like to explore. Either way, make sure you subscribe to our weekly reading list at the bottom of this page, where you'll receive the best bits we come across directly to your inbox.