A Detailed Guide to UX Writing: Welcome to the Exciting World of Words and Design

June 11, 2024

This comprehensive guide dives into the world of UX writing, explaining what it is, what UX writers do, the skills they need, and how you can get started in this fascinating field.

What is UX writing?

In a nutshell, UX writing is the art and science of researching, crafting, and testing content for digital products and services. It’s about using clear and concise language to guide users through a smooth and enjoyable experience.

What do UX writers do?

Digital products encompass a wide range of industries, and job descriptions can vary depending on the company size and structure.

  • In small companies or startups: You might wear many hats, with UX writing being one of several content-related tasks.
  • In large corporations: Your work is likely more streamlined, focusing on UX writing for specific products.

Here are some core responsibilities that unite most UX writers:

  • Writing copy based on user research and testing results: This ensures your writing reflects user needs, not just your own assumptions.
  • Working closely with designers and developers: Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the user journey throughout a specific flow or section.
  • Using words to solve user problems and meet business goals: Striking a balance between user-friendliness and achieving company objectives.

Skills needed for UX writing success:

  • Writing skills: This might seem obvious, but UX writing differs from traditional writing in its focus on other aspects as well.
  • Content strategy: UX writing is a strategic form of writing. You’ll identify and solve user challenges, often tackling user flows one at a time.
  • UX research and testing: Effective UX writing is data-driven and open to user feedback. You’ll use research insights to inform your writing tasks.
  • Design thinking: UX writers are part of the design team, participating in regular meetings, workshops, and brainstorming sessions. Embrace early and frequent feedback on your work.
  • Design tools: Basic proficiency in common design tools like Figma is helpful. While you won’t replace designers, working with them requires some understanding of their tools.
  • AI-driven language tools: New developments in AI, like ChatGPT, can generate content at an impressive pace. However, these tools lack context and can’t replace human writers. They can be helpful for generating ideas or rough drafts, but human editing and approval are crucial.

How much do UX writers make?

UX writers, content designers, and other tech writers tend to earn above-average salaries. In some cases, UX writers can even command six-figure salaries.

Is UX writing the same as content design?

The term “content design” was coined by Sarah Winters, who led the transformation of the UK government website. Content design focuses on the strategy, content creation, and publishing required to make text-heavy websites user-friendly.

There’s some overlap between UX writing and content design, with job titles sometimes used interchangeably. However, UX writing often involves user flows in mobile apps, while content design might encompass broader website content.

The difference between UX writing and copywriting:

Traditional copywriting is associated with advertising agencies, using persuasive language to entice users to purchase products or services. UX writing, however, focuses on making existing products or services easy and enjoyable to use, often after a purchase has been made.

UX writing vs. technical writing:

Both UX writing and technical writing aim to make complex information clear and understandable. However, technical writers typically work with text-heavy documentation, while UX writing focuses on user journeys within digital interfaces.

Who should consider it?

Anyone with a passion for clear communication, a willingness to learn new skills, and an interest in design can thrive in UX writing. Writers, designers, and even people from other backgrounds like journalism or customer service can successfully transition into UX writing.

A Day in the Life of a UX Writer (There’s no such thing as typical!)

Imagine a day where you don’t write a single word:

  • You start with a team meeting to discuss everyone’s tasks. The lead UX writer shares a report showing a high checkout flow dropout rate. You’re tasked with investigating the flow and copy to improve it.
  • You analyze the flow, deliberately entering wrong information to generate error messages and take notes.
  • You suspect the issue is a lack of information for users with non-Latin characters in their addresses.
  • You chat with customer service and developers to gather more information.
  • You prepare an action plan, proposing explanatory copy and usability testing with users from affected countries.

How to Become a UX Writer: Building Your Skills and Portfolio

Here are some actionable steps to take on your UX writing journey:

  • Learn the Basics: Take online courses or read UX writing books and blogs. There are many free resources available, and some paid courses offer certificates that could add weight to your resume.
    • Consider courses offered by UX Writing Hub, Nielsen Norman Group, or other reputable institutions.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice: There are many platforms to practice UX writing without needing a real job. Look at existing apps or websites and analyze their UX writing. Could you improve it? Write down your edits and explain your reasoning.
    • Consider participating in online challenges or contests focused on UX writing.
  • Build Your Portfolio: Showcase your best UX writing work. This could include case studies, freelance projects, or even speculative design projects where you create a UX writing solution for a popular app.
    • Consider creating a user-friendly online portfolio website to showcase your work. Don’t worry about making it perfect; just get started and iterate as you learn more.
  • Connect with the UX Community: Engage with other UX writers online and attend conferences or meetups if possible. Join online forums or Slack groups to learn from others and network within the field.

Apply for Jobs: Once you feel confident in your skills and have a strong portfolio, apply for UX writing positions. Be prepared to demonstrate not just your writing abilities, but also your understanding of the UX process and your passion for user-centered design.

Additional Tips:

  • Read books on user experience (UX) design: Gain a deeper understanding of the entire design process, not just the writing aspect.
  • Become a master of usability testing: Learn best practices for user testing and how to analyze user research data.
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest trends: The field of UX writing is constantly evolving. Keep learning and be adaptable.

Remember, UX writing is a rewarding career at the intersection of words and design. It allows you to use your creativity and passion for language to make a positive impact on how users interact with the digital world. So, are you ready to write the future of user experiences?

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