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Tomer Gabbai
Co-founder & CEO
July 21, 2021
5 min read

Match Made in Product: 4 Key Practices for Successful Designer–Writer Collaboration

Should design come before copy, or copy before design? Meet the product world’s chicken-and-egg problem

July 21, 2021
5 min read

Since launching Frontitude, we have sat down with over 100 diverse design and product teams from a wide range of companies, from startups to global enterprise companies, to hear how designers and writers work together, and what could make their partnership and processes even better.

Successful collaboration between writers and designers working together is key not only for building products that are holistically user friendly, but also for creating efficient and effective company workflows and processes. In this post, we outline four key learnings that your team can implement for a more fruitful designer–writer relationship.

4 key practices for successful desginer-writer collaboration

1. Start from common ground, as equal partners

UX writers (aka content strategists, content designers, or product writers) are often considered the “new kid on the block.” Even though UX writing as a practice has of course been around for as long as digital products have existed, the field and profession are newer, meaning that in terms of team and organizational dynamics, the role and position of UX writers isn’t always clear cut.

In our conversations with different companies, we found that the first key for success was for the writers and designers to start from common ground and work together as partners. The best relationships involved both parties designing and developing products together, rather than, for example, the designer creating mockups full of “Lorem ipsum”s and then handing them over to the writer to fill in the text.

To create great products and set up effective workflows, writers and designers need to work together regularly, or even constantly. Make sure writers and designers are both involved in: defining goals and roles and setting expectations, building out the look and feel of the product together, and, on a practical level, both part of any brainstorming or prototyping tools (e.g., InVision, Figma, Miro, etc.). The UX design and copy simply can’t work together if the designer and writer don’t.

"To create great products and set up effective workflows, writers and designers need to work together regularly, or even constantly."


2. Choose a single communication tool

Throw a proverbial rock into cyberspace and you’re bound to hit some sort of communication or project management tool—and of course, the pandemic and rise in remote work have fueled that even further. On one hand, there’s something for everyone; on the other hand, your team may be adopting new tools and platforms faster than you can even keep up with them.

The teams we spoke to shared that communication and feedback regarding UX copy often takes place anywhere and everywhere: in design tool comments, in one main Google Doc or Sheet, in Slack channels, and more. The result: a lot of confusion. When communication is all over the place, no one can identify the latest version, and there can be a lot of inefficiencies, as team members do repeat work. The key, therefore, is for your team to sit down together and figure out where and how you’re going to communicate about UX copy: Where will the writer create the first draft? How and where will you “hash it all out”? How do you mark a string of copy once it’s been finalized and approved? Figure it all out, and then stick to it.

"The UX design and copy simply can’t work together if the designer and writer don’t."

Choose a single communication tool

3. Write with full context

This blog post was drafted up in a Google Doc—just your ordinary word dump, which we then shifted around based on the messages and story we wanted to tell here. But the final piece—the post you’re now reading—is mostly one long block of text.

Even though UX copy is a different game, a lot of the writers we spoke to shared that they often end up working primarily in Google Docs. In other words, they have “View-only” access to the screens on Figma, Adobe XD, or Sketch, but can’t work in it and instead put their copy into a Google Doc that lives elsewhere. That means that sometimes things get lost in “translation” as they make the jump from designs to documents.

In our experience, and based on the conversations we had, even when you count pixels or characters meticulously, nothing compares to working within the screens and designs, with full context, whether that’s directly in design/prototyping software like Figma or with Frontitude.

"...even when you count pixels or characters meticulously, nothing compares to working within the screens and designs, with full context..."

4. Document your work

One writer we spoke to put it this way: “I spend 20% of my time at work writing and 80% of my time explaining what I wrote.” Most UX writers can relate to having to explain how they decided on their copy, such as certain terminology and phrasing.

That’s why documentation is so important. It helps you keep records of different iterations (e.g., earlier versions versus more updated ones), visual design constraints that may be overlooked down the road, and feedback from different stakeholders. Both the writers and designers we spoke to cited a clear documentation process (such as copy docs) as essential for presenting a tight case to other stakeholders and streamlining the workflow, so the journey to the finish line is shorter.

Document your work

Ultimately, when designing and building digital products, the question shouldn’t be about whether the design or copy should come first, but rather about how your team members can work together better. When there’s full transparency, communication, and collaboration from the get-go, along with clear workflows and effective tools, companies can create better products for their users and better working environments for their teams.

Looking to manage your UX copy from design to production, with full context and while maintaining a consistent voice and clear documentation? Try Frontitude for free or book a demo to learn more about what Frontitude can do for your team.

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