UX Writing: what does this expression mean? User Experience Writing, literally, writing for the user experience. An almost imperceptible writing, but more than ever fundamental in any context, digital or otherwise: from websites to apps, from newsletters to e-commerce, but also in the physical world, in signage, information signs and so on. An ad hoc designed writing is essential to guide the person who is to explore each of these spaces. UX Writing is everywhere, but it often goes unnoticed, and it is an element to pay particular attention to when creating a simple and satisfying experience for people.
Let’s go deeper, focusing on the digital world. It is clear that we are talking about writing and texts: but which copy does the UX Writer deal with? We have mentioned almost imperceptible but fundamental texts: not surprisingly, in the context of UX Writing the term microcopy often resonates. Small portions of text, extremely concise, but very clear in their essentiality, which help people understand how to move in a digital space. Call to action, buttons of various kinds, menu items, names of fields within a form to be filled in, error messages and various feedback on the actions that are performed: all the texts relating to these elements (and many others) are the bread and butter of the UX Writer.
They might seem irrelevant, but think about it: how would you create your e-commerce account if there weren’t all these micro-texts to guide you step by step? How would you understand where you need to click to complete a payment? And if you are doing something wrong, how would you understand it, without an ad hoc message? Even just from these simple examples, the importance of microcopies and UX Writing is evident within the user experience: the interface would be incomplete without them, as well as the indications for navigating a site, an app and so on.
Is UX Writing just writing? No, on the contrary. To offer a pleasant and satisfying browsing experience to people, you must first of all get to know them. Know their needs and understand how to best meet them. Understand what they would like to find on our site. Understand their language, their words, and make them your own. Understanding the culture and the context of reference, in all their facets. In short, if you want to write to help those people have pleasant, useful and simple experiences, you must first listen to them.
This is why much of the work of a UX Writer is made up of research – to understand the people to write to – and collaboration: not only towards the recipients of his words, but also towards a multifaceted team that works in synergy, integrating the skills of different professional figures, from researchers to information architects, to experience and interface designers, with the sole aim of offering the best possible experience.
Writing is only the final stage of UX Writing. The focus is always only one: the user experience. This is why UX Writing differs substantially from the more traditional forms of Copywriting, the one linked to business and marketing objectives, whose focus, in the end, is always a product, a brand, a service, even if treated with different storytelling techniques. The objectives underlying these two types of writing are different: UX Writing has the mission of guiding the user’s experience and helping him in his navigation, Copywriting – in its broadest sense – can have an informative objective, it can help a product or a brand to stand out in the sea of web content in people’s eyes, it can help people find what they are looking for on search engines.
Now let’s try to understand in a more practical way what are some of the well thought out features of microcopy, with some best practices in the field of UX Writing.
Less is more: in this case it is truer than ever. Not surprisingly, we talk about microcopy. A text capable of guiding a person in the execution of a series of actions must be simple, clear at first glance, useful: no beating around the bush, frills, complex syntax. Just choose carefully the words to use to effectively express a concept.
Those used by the person we are addressing in his daily life. How can we make ourselves understood if we do not adopt a language common to that of our recipients? This is why listening to the people we want to address is an essential phase in UX Writing.
In this case – perhaps the only one – they will be more than welcome: whoever clicks on a button or link must always know where it will end up. Each action has a corresponding consequence and this consequence cannot be a surprise: those who surf a site must feel safe to have a pleasant experience. And knowing where you go after a click or a tap is a fundamental element for this purpose. The UX writer has therefore the task of clarifying where each button leads, using consistent words: everything has its own name and we must use it if we want to be understood by the reader. The button that clicks to print the page cannot say “Continue”, because it must clearly state what happens when people select it. “Print” is the correct solution.
Even microcopies must be aligned with the speaker’s tone of voice: “clarity and simplicity” are terms not in contrast with “personality”, you just need to find the right balance. It would be too easy to resort to standardized Call to action and microcopy, not to mention the fact that “Learn more” and “Click here” are by no means the most effective choice in most cases.