UX writing (also known as content design) is trending. But what’s a UX writer and what makes them different from a copywriter? A writer is a writer is a writer—right?
Actually, not quite.
Buckle up, because we’re about to take you on a quick-and-dirty tour of the differences between UX writers and copywriters.
So, what is a UX writer?
UX writers have been around for a while, but there are still a lot of misconceptions about what they do and what makes them different or unique. A UX writer is a writer whose main focus is designing the words that appear on digital interfaces, such as apps, software, or websites, in order to provide users with the best experience possible.
What makes a UX writer different from a copywriter?
There are several key differences between UX writers and copywriters.
In this post, we’ll cover:
- The goals and focus of their writing
- Their target audience
- Their backgrounds
- The teams they work with
- The metrics they focus on
What are the goals of UX writing vs. copywriting?
Generally speaking, a copywriter focuses more on writing from the sales and marketing angle, helping to engage the audience, build trust and brand loyalty, and move customers through a sales funnel with the end goal of purchasing a product or service.
Copywriters write copy to educate customers about the industry, position a company as an expert in its field, highlight the benefits of a product or service, and promote sales, either directly or indirectly. Some examples of copywriting may include web copy, blog posts, case studies, white papers, email sequences, sales pages, and ad copy.
UX writing, on the other hand, focuses on the end user and the experience they have within the digital product, often once they’ve already been sold on it—i.e., have signed up for it. UX writers’ primary goal is to help users use a product easily and effectively, while maintaining the brand voice and giving users a consistent experience that aligns with other brand materials and touch-points.
They produce the copy that customers actually interact with—examples of UX writing include buttons, error messages, tooltips, notifications, and messages from chatbots. Since UX copy typically needs to be concise, writers have to consider the impact of every word they use.
For example, if a customer receives an error message that says “Something went wrong,” they probably won’t know what they did wrong or how to fix it. It’s too vague. However, if they receive a message saying “The password you entered is incorrect,” the problem is clear and they know the exact next step to take: enter the correct password.
UX writers who collaborate with their team, directly inside the design, can test different versions of copy, make sure they are visually appealing, and ensure the copy functions correctly.
How do they each approach their target audience?
UX writers and copywriters both give a lot of thought to what’s going on in the customer’s mind, but they come at the issues from different perspectives.
A copywriter considers the challenges the customer faces and the problems a product or service can solve. Their goal is often to connect with the potential customer, tell a brand story that the customer can connect with, and communicate value in order to sell their particular solution.
A UX writer, on the other hand, thinks about what the customer (by now a user) needs to know to use the product or service successfully, what the user might be concerned about when interacting with the platform or interface, and how to continue to communicate the brand voice and value. They anticipate the challenges the user will have and figure out how to eliminate them to minimize frustration and customer service inquiries.
UX writers also have to make sure they understand brand messaging so the language they use remains consistent across the product and brand touch-points and so it is either on par with the language used in the industry or serves as a source of differentiation.
Who becomes a UX writer vs. a copywriter?
Both copywriters and UX writers can come from a variety of backgrounds. Writing is one of those fields that is open to nearly anyone who is willing to learn, practice, edit, and improve! That said, copywriters may have more of an interest in sales, advertising, and storytelling, whereas UX writers may have more product, design, or otherwise technical leanings or interests.
Which teams and team members do each work with?
Copywriters generally work on their own or with the marketing and sales teams to ensure they are communicating brand values and messaging clearly. They often work more on long-form copy, with design typically being an afterthought or as needed for whatever platform or format they’re using (e.g., email newsletter, blog, etc.).
UX writers spend their time meeting with the product team, designers, engineers, and developers to create a well-thought-out experience. Product and design teams are realizing that UX copy can’t be a last-minute add-on if they want to provide an optimal user experience, so they are bringing UX writers on earlier in the design process.
Many product teams now choose to collaborate using tools like Frontitude, which gives both writers and designers the ability to participate in designing the user’s experience in the product. No more chaotic communication across multiple platforms with lost or repeated work and feedback. When all team members have access to the full context—both copy and design—they can work and collaborate more efficiently, with less frustration and better results for the team and the end user.
What metrics are they each looking at?
Both copywriters and UX writers rely on metrics to measure the success of their copy, though the metrics they look at differ. Copywriters, who are likely focused on getting leads through the funnel and converting them, may watch impressions, time spent consuming content, signups, clicks, and bounce rate. They are more likely than UX writers to use social media platforms, as well as analytics tools, like Google Analytics, and SEO tools, like Ahrefs, StoryChief, and Yoast.
UX writers, who want to make sure that usability is optimized, may pay attention to time spent using the product, user testing and eye-tracking studies, user satisfaction (e.g., feedback shared by customer support team members), and engagement (e.g., clicks or conversions) on certain features or elements. Both can use A/B testing and user testing to get deeper insights about how and why people engage (or don’t engage) with their copy.
Why choose UX writing over copywriting?
Successful UX writers are curious, have a natural bent for technology, and are empathetic to the end-user. UX writing may seem tedious at times (ahem, stuck on the exact phrasing for an obscure error message, anyone?), but the role also comes with perks:
- Opportunities to work with diverse teams
- The ability to follow a product through its life cycle, from conception to iteration and user testing to final version and beyond
- Opportunities to be creative and design and impact the user experience
- Exposure to a variety of design tools and platforms, such as Figma
- Potential for high earnings because UX writing is a more technical, niche practice
A copywriter who is interested in moving into UX writing will benefit from training with UX design tools and platforms. They will need to learn specific UX writing skills such as thinking like a user, writing short copy, and best practices for different components and types of messages, and they should spend time getting to know how product managers and designers work.
UX writing and copywriting are BOTH important. There may seem to be a great deal of overlap between the two jobs. The reality is that companies who are looking to improve and create a professional user experience understand that it is usually best to hire both a copywriter and a UX writer and let each shine individually.