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You use Maps to navigate through the city. Don't you? The UX Writers’ responsibility is somewhat comparable to creating a high quality navigation map, allowing the users to intuitively navigate through a Digital product. If a product has a well thought out UX microcopy, its experience gets remarkably enhanced, giving the business a competitive edge.
These tiny text tidbits aka "Microcopy" makes a remarkably postive difference to product success. The microcopy reflects thoughfulness of a business towards their customers. As an example, compare the two 404 pages below and the effect they have, thanks to the Microcopy and Design.
i) from Wikimedia: Conveys the message about what happened with “Page not found” message. Gives helpful tips to visit the Main Page or read information about the error.
Source: Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
ii) Another 404 error page is from LEGO. The microcopy helps to encourage users that nothing serious has happened by using the phrase from the LEGO song “Everything is STILL AWESOME!” The image of the LEGO man also evokes a light hearted feeling (LEGO is a toy brand) and familiarity compared to the above page from Wikimedia which uses a logo of Wikimedia foundation. The LEGO 404 page reorients the thinking of the user from seriousness of an ‘error’ to something a little more fun and encourages the users to “Start shopping” via the Microcopy on the button.
Source: Part of screenshot from the LEGO website
While the traditional organizations have been slow to adapt in hiring UX writers, the more aggressive tech and internet based businesses have been hiring UX writers as an indispensable part of their creative teams. The ratio of UX writer to Designers has been on the rise across the board.
Companies are projected to hire several thousands of UX writers in the next 5 years. Google, Apple and other tech unicorns are already in a hiring spree for the UX writer role. The newer and the more traditional ones are bound to follow suit.
#1 What is the UX Writer role?
All that text you see on the product interface elements of a webapps, mobile apps or websites are called Microcopy. Microcopy applies to product on-boarding, interaction experience, error messages, instructional materials, and other components of the end-to-end user experience. These are created by the UX Writers. However, the UX writer's scope of work does end there! UX Writers help apply the brand voice and their empathy, logic and data backed choice of Microcopy gives the product a personality.
The UX Writer creates a Content Style Guide - this document is used across the organization to create all communication with a cohesive language and a unified voice. The Content Style guide is a set of writing principles and guidelines at one place for handy reference for all creative people in the organization.
Creative problem solving in close collaboration with designers and other project team members is one of the main responsibilities of the UX writer. They help to convert boring interface communication into helpful and easy solutions for the users.
#2 What a UX Writer is not?
UX writers do not engage in a copy that attracts sales, they create a copy that makes the product easy-to-use and enables the product to communicate effectively with the users. UX writers are not visual designers so expecting a UX writer to create a matching visual design may end up creating the worst of both worlds.
The writing work under several other job titles might overlap with “UX writer” e.g. copywriters, content strategists, social media executives and technical writers. However each of those roles perform a different function than the UX writer. The UX writer and these roles benefit the organization in separate areas. By regularly exchanging information among themselves the organization these roles will be able to deliver consistent communication across channels. However, the distinct responsibility of improving product UX using microcopy stays with the UX writer.
#3 How do the UX writers work?
The UX Design process is quite similar to the process of UX Writing. Besides writing the product copy, the UX writers spend their time to understand the business and user goals and to align the product copy with the two.
As a detailed process, the UX writers go through the Discovery, Design and Writing phases.
The Discovery phase includes developing a clear understanding of the feature or product, its user and business benefit and a high level analysis of relevant terminologies used in similar and adjacent worlds. At this stage the potential impact of any Laws, Compliance and Standards is also taken into account to set the expectations from the product Copy.
Much of thinking and detailed analysis happens in the Design phase. A UX Writer’s analysis specific to this phase are closely related to purpose, meaning and flow of information on each screen (element), the manner in which each information is likely to be absorbed by the users, likely mental model of the users while using this feature, possibility of localisation, etc. Effective collaboration and building good interpersonal relationships with the product team members e.g. product managers, designers, UX researchers and technical team helps the UX writers save time and gather inputs directly instead of only relying on reading documents.
Writing phase: In the final phase of the UX writing process comes the actual words. Competitive analysis, brainstorming, drafting, editing and re-editing, proofreading and user testing concludes the copy which is all set to go into the product interface. Brand tone and voice is applied to the microcopy as much as the refinements on grammar. Actual copywriting is done on mockups, wireframes are done. Quality assurance is the final stage in which the final feedback is gathered and any required updates to the Copy are made. An effective UX writer needs to create and revise the microcopy several times until it makes the product usage intuitive and user-friendly.
#4 What keeps the UX writer busy?
Like for every role in our fast paced and ever changing world, the UX writer cannot afford to stop learning and adapting. Users are regularly being presented with newer ways to interact with the products and services, so the consumption habits and use expectations are changing too. Imagine yourself clearing immigration (while traveling overseas) or confirming payment transactions only using biometric authentication 3-4 years ago! UX writers must continue to learn and adapt by keeping abreast of those changes to stay relevant.
The UX writers also need to constantly engage and educate the stakeholders, cross-domain partners about the UX writer role, influence and adapt to their thinking and gather feedback throughout the product development process.
The Goal of UX writing is to improve the Usability and User Experience of the product. The UX writing is not meant to be sexy or attract new users. However, a good UX Copy goes a long way to increase product usability (stickiness) and build a loyal user base.
UX writing is about communication and providing the information users need in context of product use. Products with well written UX Copy are easy-to-use and help to establish an emotional bond between the Brand and its users.
A good UX copy must convey the product's brand voice and have the ability to provide information with which users clearly know the actions they need to take in order to achieve their goals during the product usage. A good copy is easily understood by almost anybody in an inclusive manner - across demographics and cultural backgrounds.
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