Think about your favorite products or the ones you use every day—products like Slack for communicating with your team, a project management tool like Asana or Jira, Google Maps for getting from work to your new dentist’s office, and so on. Now think about what those products looked like a few years ago or when you first started using them—back when Slack didn’t connect with Figma, for example, or Google Maps didn’t indicate whether a shop offers curbside pickup.
That’s the beauty of products: they evolve and change; they get new features—and lose others. For product teams, though, that means that there has to be a strategy driving how they work. Ideally, they’re not just slapping on new features willy-nilly, in a patchwork fashion. The same is true of UX writing—it has to be guided by a strategy. Of course, once a strategy has been defined, it should also be documented to ensure that everyone knows about it and can follow it.
What UX writing strategy covers
Your UX writing strategy brings together your company or product background and your decisions. It takes things like user background, UX research, business goals, voice and tone, and more into consideration and defines how your UX copy will sound and, more importantly, what kind of user experience it will drive.
Why it’s important to document your UX writing strategy
Documenting your UX writing strategy has a lot of benefits, not just for the UX writer(s) but also for the whole product team.
Good documentation enables:
- Better collaboration – By documenting your UX writing strategy, everyone can be aligned on the North Star guiding the UX writing process and work together to achieve it. With documentation in place, the UX writing strategy doesn’t live exclusively in the UX writer’s head, for example.
- Consistency – Documentation helps your team put guidelines into place and follow them more easily, so you can give your users a smoother experience that’s free of unexpected surprises.
- Clearer communication – Documentation sets the groundwork for clear communication. It prevents misunderstandings and uncertainty because there’s a single source of information that everyone on the team can turn to and follow, with less back-and-forth between stakeholders.
- Faster delivery – When your strategy and process are clearly laid out, it’s easier to go from start to finish without any detours along the way. Everyone knows what route to follow and you can deliver features faster and with less frustration.
- Record-keeping – Documentation gives you a record of where you’ve been, so to speak, and where you’re going—that is, it can help you keep track of decisions you made and options you considered, so you don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.
"Documentation sets the groundwork for clear communication. It prevents misunderstandings and uncertainty because there’s a single source of information that everyone on the team can turn to and follow, with less back-and-forth between stakeholders."
The path to documentation is paved with good intentions
Though the benefits of good documentation are clear, getting there isn’t always easy. For one, documentation often happens after the fact. When you have deadlines to meet, it can be hard to prioritize and set aside time for it. Likewise, if the expectation is that documentation is only by and for writers, they may not feel the need to document the knowledge they’re already carrying in their heads, which is second-nature to them. (And guess what? It wouldn’t be unheard of for your writers to love writing UX copy yet find creating documentation to be a huge drag.) Worst of all, though, is how documentation is almost like buying a new car: not long after it’s ready, it’s already outdated and less valuable.
Most teams rely primarily on documents, such as a Google Doc or Slides file, to create and store their documentation. While it may be shared, it’s the type of thing teammates don’t know exists unless they’re explicitly told about it. They’re unlikely to come across it on their own, and it may not be widely discussed (and therefore followed).
3 tips for creating more effective documentation
1. Get all the key stakeholders involved
As mentioned before, when the expectation is that UX writers will create and maintain documentation for themselves, the documentation is far less likely to be effective—or even used. For good documentation that is actually useful, it’s best to create it with the involvement of all the key stakeholders. Set up a session (or a few) where you discuss:
- The purpose and goals you’d like to achieve with documentation
- The vision for your product
- The research you have
- Your voice, tone, and style
- The UX writing workflow
- The key “pillars” that should be part of the documentation
This session doesn’t need to go into all the details, but it should help you decide what the documentation will cover and how team members should use it. Then the writers can flesh it out and share it.
2. Create a context-based single source of truth
Instead of creating a nicely formatted document that collects proverbial dust in your folders, use a UX writing tool that is part of your tech stack and integrates with your product. A UX writing tool lets you craft your UX copy with full design context while standardizing decisions and creating documentation along the way, making it your single source of truth.
Here are some ways a UX writing tool can support documenting your UX writing strategy:
- No more outdated documents.
When documentation and content live side by side, it’s less likely that the documentation will fall behind. If a specific guideline is changed, you can immediately update all the relevant content accordingly because you have it right there, alongside the documentation. Conversely, if you need to update your documentation and guidelines based on changes you made to the copy, that’s easy, too, since it’s stored in the same tool right next to the content.
- Instead of creating static documentation, you can turn your decisions into components.
When documentation is simply a file, UX writers (and other team members) have to go digging for guidelines or examples when they need them. Using a UX writing tool, you can build a library of all your copy by turning copy choices into components that anyone can use directly as part of the workflow. Instead of a file listing do’s and don’ts, the do’s are right there, ready to be used.
- Everything is stored for you.
Beyond your product copy, UX writing tools house your content guidelines, discussions, and version history for you, so you don’t have to go back and create logs and documentation of everything on your own.
- You can unite the whole team in one place.
Instead of having the designer work in Figma, the writers work in Google Docs, and the product managers and developers straddle both (plus some Slack conversations and Jira comments), UX writing tools with design tool integrations bring everyone together so they can be on the same page about what’s happening, what’s next, and what needs to be documented (or not).
"When documentation and content live side by side, it’s less likely that the documentation will fall behind. If a specific guideline is changed, you can immediately update all the relevant content accordingly because you have it right there, alongside the documentation."
3. Make it part of your workflow
When a product evolves, documentation needs to evolve right alongside it. For that to happen, it has to be part of your workflow. That means two things:
1. As part of your UX writing process, you revisit and follow the documentation. You keep it open as you’re working.
2. If your UX writing strategy changes during that process, you make updates to the documentation on the spot, also as part of your workflow, instead of letting the opportunity pass and therefore letting the documentation become outdated.
The goal of documentation isn’t to create extra work that no one will look at. When created well and integrated into your tech stack and workflow, documentation can speed up processes, align your team, make communication smoother, and ensure that you’re creating a consistent, valuable experience for your users.