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Frontitude Team
January 6, 2021
5 min read

UX Writing Over Coffee: UX writers talk about their workflow - Part 1

A new series: Leading writers talk about their UX writing workflow and the challenges they face at work over a cup of coffee

January 6, 2021
5 min read

While we build and develop Frontitude, our team speaks with many UX and product teams, discussing their content workflows, what challenges they face, and the tools they currently use. We believe that sharing this information with the UX community can take everyone’s work to the next level.

In addition, it feels like we're all missing these small talks and meetups during this time of social distancing. We miss hearing about other people's work and learning from it. We hope that this series can fill this gap, at least until we're back to normal :)

In this post, we put the spotlight on the writers, which are the ones who initiate and own content workflows within their teams. We took a few of them who work in big companies for a short talk about these topics.

So, grab your favorite coffee. We're waiting for you.

All set?

Please meet...

UX writers over coffee - talking about UX workflows

Could you describe the process of writing new UX copy in your team? At what stage does it start and who is involved?

Andy: "I always advocate starting with the narrative first, then figuring out how and where to tell it. I think the narrative informs placement, which in turn defines the purpose of each message within the wider story.

I like to be involved with product, design, and research as early as possible to figure out the right narrative for the end user before writing or designing anything."

Val: "As the first (and so far only) UX writer at my company, I have to look for ways to help others to write well because I don’t have the bandwidth to do it all myself.

This means that the process of writing new UX copy for my team starts well before the project itself. It starts by providing foundational UX writing guidelines for all designers, PMs, and engineers.

The main manifestation of this is UX Writing Guide that currently exists as a Google doc. But in practice, it means sharing guidelines and best practices as widely as possible. For example, every week I share a UX writing tip with the product and design teams, as well as with other writers at the company."

Amy: "For new products, our designer will mock up a working flow and wireframes, using the input from our research phase and UX group brainstorming. We’ll generally start with placeholder copy, but as we refine our designs, I’ll do several copy passes. We work pretty collaboratively, balancing design and copy constraints.

Whatever I write has a lot of eyes on it! We’ll get rounds of input from a combination of our manager, the product owner, business analysts, technical product managers, operations, customer care, and our compliance team before the copy becomes final."

"Every week I share a UX writing tip with the product and design teams" (Val Klump)

Ux writing tips for product and design teams
Weekly UX writing tip (Val Klump, Coinbase)

What do you find as the biggest challenge in UX writing?

Val: "One of the biggest challenges is business impact. How do I show the value of great writing? [Read more about How UX Copy Drives Better Business Results]

Another big challenge is localization. How can I write great copy not just in English but in every language our app supports? We have solid translation services but I secretly wish we could have a UX writer for every language who spends time making each string clear, concise, and compelling in their language."

Andy: "Often it’s time. The quality of the work copy can deliver is directly linked to how much time we have to test the words and the design elements with users and in internal UX reviews. So making sure copy has the right amount of time for a project is one of the biggest challenges I see when working in tech / product. Everything is always urgent!"

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What do you wish to improve in your UX writing workflow?

Val: "I wish it was easier to update copy in our live app. Today I need to work with our engineering team to update copy, usually by filing a ticket in Jira. This process can take several days or even weeks."

Andy: "Consistent and cohesive user experiences are really important goals for UX writers. Something I’m always looking to improve on is how I document, keep track of, and share key terminology and guidelines with other writers. Plus showing the value of this background work to stakeholders and other roles."

Amy: "I’m a huge fan of consistency, so the first big UX writing project I’m working on in 2021 is our official style guide. I’ll be teaming up with two excellent creatives on our team, our content manager and our financial writer, to put it together. It will be an integral part of our new design system, and I’m excited to have it as a resource."

What tools do you use to organize your UX copy and manage collaboration with the team?

Amy: "I mostly draft in Word or Excel, depending on the project. I have docs littered with alternate ideas and experiments. It’s always fun to go back and see how I got to the final copy.

Our team designs in Adobe XD, so we’ll publish a prototype link of working wireframes when we’re ready for copy. I’ll use XD’s comment feature to put the exact copy I want exactly where I want it. Then, our designer updates with the changes, which allows me to see the words in context and adjust accordingly.

I put dates and versions in my own file names and the XD link is kept up-to-date as our group source of truth. Resolved XD comments serve as a versioning history. Jira also acts as a versioning history once we submit close to final work to our compliance team."

Val: "We use Figma for everything. Our default components in Figma are always kept updated with the current copy.

I prefer having one page in Figma with definitive designs and copy. I often also create a “UX Writing” page within the Figma file so I can save my work (in case it gets overwritten for any reason) and explore new ideas without impacting the main designs… and without getting judged. :)"

Did you find this content helpful? Interviews like this are about to be published regularly. Subscribe below to get new posts to your inbox right when they’re out of the oven.

Read here the second part in this series, where we discuss with UX writers from Microsoft and Intuit about UX writing, workflows, and in between.

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