Using the right words to communicate a business's purpose and solving the users' problems with a website or digital product is the goal of UX Writing. Even if a website has a creative and attractive design, it will only achieve its purpose if the content offers a good user experience. But what's the difference between UX writing, web writing, and copywriting?
UX Writing is everything written to ensure the best user experience of a digital product. In other words: it goes beyond small texts written on an interface or website, also called microcopy. While copywriting focuses on persuasion, UX writing prioritizes experience.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of a UX writer to write, review and validate the content of emails, notifications, help area articles, and many other communication channels with the user.
Copywriting is focused on campaigns, social media texts, and marketing. The goal is persuasion, and texts are predominantly short. Web writing tends to be longer and is focused on internal communication, texts for blogs, articles for magazines, and e-books, among others. The purpose is to immerse users in a topic, capture leads, and optimize for search engines.
UX writing, on the other hand, focuses on the study of the semantics of the brand user. UX writers write words for buttons, chatbots, temporary error phrases, or other messages within an app and website. They analyze the flows and what information is unclear and objective, such as words, expressions, and mini-phrases. It's important to remember that all of these areas are intertwined.
Writing for the user does not depend only on mastering grammar, spelling, and other linguistic rules. You must follow some good practices to succeed and offer a good experience. Some of the following advice also applies to copywriting and web writing.
This first piece of advice in UX Writing seems obvious, but it should be noticed in website projects. The writing should value the clarity and objectivity of the messages. Remember: what is clear to you may not be evident to someone else.
Forget about the most elaborate terms or phrases that make reading more complex, no matter how creative they are. It's best to work with words that are part of the daily life of users.
There's even an international movement called Plain Language, which defends that web content and services should be accessible to people with different literacy levels.
Following the Plain Language guideline doesn't mean your content must be superficial. Research the general interests and background of the audience for the website you are building or updating. Find out who these people are, their educational level, and what kind of language they use.
Writing texts with jargon and terms only common to those familiar with the area is not advisable for most websites. You should avoid technical terms as much as possible. If you must use them, prepare auxiliary material to explain their meaning. Knowing what needs an explanation and what doesn't is an effort that directly depends on your understanding of the buyer persona.
Conversational language is easier to understand and more engaging. So, where appropriate, write CTAs and all website content in a personal and conversational tone.
Think: how would I personally say this? That means being direct, preferring familiar and common words, including examples, and telling stories.
You can create a dictionary with the most common words and expressions used by your audience and write as if you were conversing with them. Another tip is to read the text out loud to hear if it sounds right. It could be more conversational if it sounds weird and robotic to you.
"What's in it for me?" is the question people often ask when given a list of actions to take. People are generally only willing to put in the effort if they know they will get something in return. They also tend to focus most of their energy at the beginning and end of sentences.
So if you're trying to convince someone to do something, wait to start by explaining the action and why they should take it. If you explain what they will get from doing something, they will often feel more inclined.
The word "you" automatically grabs people's attention, attracts them, and establishes a relationship between the writer and the reader. This "you" puts your reader in the story. Therefore, you can and should use this feature.
Time is increasingly scarce for consumers. Customers are barely willing to spend a minute analyzing an offer. This context makes being concise well appreciated in UX Writing.
The message should immediately present what is most important to the target audience so that your texts are brief and practical at the same time. Spend several rounds of editing to remove unnecessary words. Try to reduce the number of words by 50% with each round of editing.
Establish an order of priority in your content. As we have said, the information the user seeks must be presented without delay, providing an agile and efficient experience.
For this purpose, you can apply the journalistic concept of the inverted pyramid, in which an informative text always begins with the most critical information and answers the questions of what, when, how, where, and why.
If you need to guide the user through multi-step processes, such as a purchase, free trial, or quote request, take them step by step, and assemble your content chronologically.
Instead of giving the user many options at once, use concise, descriptive tags to group related information. The more alternatives the user has, the more confused they will be and the more likely they will not click anything or take action. This is the paradox of choice, a mental trigger that can lead to choice overload anxiety and paralyze people.
When people read online, they tend to be more task-oriented and goal-focused than when reading print. They often want to obtain vital information needed to complete some other, more important task. Help your readers find this information quickly by giving your content a clear structure.
Here are some ways to do it:
• Use headings and subheadings whenever you move to a new topic
• Present the content as a list
• Use bold or italics to highlight important information
• Divide long texts into paragraphs of no more than four lines
Imagine you're skimming through a blog post looking for information, and in one of the paragraphs, you see the word "here" underlined and blue. Can you tell where that link takes you without reading the rest of the sentence? Of course not.
Place your links in clear, descriptive language that provides clues and context about where the link will take the user.
Why is this significant:
Usability: When the linked text gives some clue about the destination, the user has a better experience.
Accessibility: especially for screen readers since they can jump from one link to another without reading all the text.
SEO: Utilizing relevant terms to the target topic is an extra boost to Google results.
Tracking customer behavior throughout their journey is an essential practice in UX Writing. This monitoring generates valuable insights for strategy development and identifies obstacles.
The data will help you identify that path. By analyzing it, you can discover that many users, for example, stop browsing a specific page. From there, you can find the reason and work to fix it. The reason can be related to many factors, such as a messy layout or rambling text.
After you understand the particularities of the user and define the best way to approach him, it is essential to create a style guide. The document must have a list of the elements of the textual communication strategy, highlighting the terms and types of language that the writer must prioritize. The latter will ensure a consistent approach across all content.
It is also essential to make the company's tone of voice clear. This broadens the writer's understanding, who, in addition to knowing the most appropriate vocabulary, will understand how the brand intends to be perceived by the public.
It is essential to understand that UX Writing depends on a collaborative environment. The editorial manager must work in direct contact with designers and programmers to produce the most appropriate content for the website or platform. Therefore, organize a workflow that encourages this interaction.
Testing the usability of your text is just as important as the design. UX Design is enhanced with usability testing. With writing, it is no different. Ask for feedback to find out how people feel about your text.