“Can you fill in some text for this button?” “Can you check this copy I wrote for this message before I pass it off to the developers today?”
Those strings of words (and any similar variations) are pretty much the last thing any UX writer or content designer wants to hear. And unfortunately, most of them hear them way too often.
There are a few ways to avoid this, though:
- By making UX writing part of your workflow,
- By giving writers the full context they need, including access to the designs and involvement in the design process, and
- By implementing effective brainstorming practices.
In this post, we cover the last one, UX brainstorming methods, and how to apply them to UX writing for better results and better products.
What is brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a method used by groups to generate ideas or come up with solutions to specific problems. Brainstorming techniques often differ across industries and fields—for example, designers may use practices that are different from those used by engineers.
Brainstorming sessions can be helpful because they give teams time and space to pause and ideate.
Brainstorming in the UX writing process
For UX writers and the product teams they work with, brainstorming sessions may be used to come up with naming conventions or a name for a new feature, rethink messaging on a central screen, update instructions, and more.
In UX writing, brainstorming sessions offer a good opportunity to bring together the key stakeholders on a product—often the UX writers (aka content designers), designers, and product managers—and come up with a strategy for the UX copy. Since brainstorming typically takes place early in the design process, it gives all members of the team a chance to be involved and get the full context relatively early on. This can be especially useful to writers, who in many cases don’t get to weigh in with their input and ideas until the design is done (or close to it).
"In UX writing, brainstorming sessions offer a good opportunity to bring together the key stakeholders on a product—often the UX writers (aka content designers), designers, and product managers—and come up with a strategy for the UX copy."
Some brainstorming methods you should know
There are lots of different approaches to brainstorming. Here are some of the most common methods used among UX teams:
- SCAMPER: Participants go through a series of questions to stimulate creative thinking about a product or service. (The letters stand for: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Eliminate, Reverse.)
- Design studio: A small group of people comes together to work on a specific design challenge by following a series of exercises to generate ideas, narrow down options, and create prototypes.
- Crazy 8s: Participants have eight minutes to sketch eight different ideas for a product or service. The goal is to generate a large number of ideas quickly, without worrying about feasibility or perfection.
- Role-playing or rolestorming: Participants pretend to be a user of the product or service and act out different scenarios so they can try to understand the user's needs and preferences.
- Prototyping: Team members create rough drafts or models of a product or service to test and refine ideas, explore different design options, and get feedback from users.
Some other brainstorming techniques often used in writing and other fields are:
- Freewriting: This involves writing continuously for a set period of time, without paying attention to grammar or structure or stopping to edit, in order to generate as many ideas as possible.
- Brainwriting: Designed for groups where participants may feel less comfortable speaking their ideas out loud, session members write down their ideas and then pass them to another participant, who may add to them. Then someone who feels comfortable reads them out loud.
- Mind mapping: Participants create a visual representation of their ideas by drawing a central idea (usually the problem or task) and surrounding it with related ideas.
How does UX writing brainstorming differ from other types of brainstorming?
UX writing brainstorming starts the way most other brainstorming does: by defining the problem at hand and seeking to solve it by coming up with ideas. Like UX brainstorming done by designers, it requires understanding both sides of the experience: the user’s perspective and the brand’s perspective (or what the product seeks to do).
During a UX writing brainstorming session, writers also need to be aware of the various different constraints involved in UX writing:
- Design constraints, such as the type of component that requires text or feature being named
- Development constraints, such as the degree of changes that can actually be made to the feature or existing product
- Voice, tone, and style constraints, such as the brand voice and the terminology that are considered acceptable by the brand
In this way, a UX writing brainstorming session will likely differ from a brainstorming session among copywriters or content writers, who, for example, have more space and “free rein” when it comes to communicating their message.
4 practical tips for running an effective UX writing brainstorming session
Whether you’re naming a feature or revisiting the messaging in your onboarding flow, there are a few things you can do to get more out of your UX writing brainstorming session:
Define your goals
Set your objectives for the session. What are you discussing and trying to achieve? To avoid wasting time, make sure your goals are focused and clear. For example, a brainstorming session covering all the UX copy across your entire, multi-page app isn’t likely to be effective. Instead focus on one flow or area or a few naming conventions.
Invite the right people
Determine who should be in your session—and who can skip this time around. When groups get too big and broad, it can be hard to run a good session. Instead, include only the people who really have something to contribute to this discussion.
Give clear instructions
Tell your attendees what’s going to happen during the session and what you expect them to do, whether it means shouting out answers, writing on sticky notes, or something else. Clear instructions will enable participants to focus completely on the task at hand.
Do a recap and set action items
Go over the ideas that arose in the session and discuss them. Then make sure they don’t stay in the room! That is, determine next steps and set action items so you can start testing them out and applying them.
Some questions to keep in mind during a UX writing brainstorming session
- Who are our users?
- What problem or pain point are we trying to solve?
- What are our main messages?
- What are the constraints we face?
- How might this be misunderstood?
- Can we come up with a few ways to rephrase this?
By running brainstorming sessions about UX writing topics, you can:
- Make UX writing considerations part of your product development process,
- Strengthen relationships between the members of your product team, and
- Expose more people to the importance of UX writing.