UX writing (or user experience writing) is the process of creating the text on digital interfaces (like websites, apps, and software) that guides users as they interact with the platform or technology. UX copy helps users understand where to go, what to do next, and how to access the knowledge and results they’re looking for.
When you navigate a mobile app or website, you expect it to be intuitive—you want to know what will happen when you click on a button or a menu, and you want to fulfill your purpose for being there in the first place.
Whether you’re paying a bill online, texting a friend, ordering a new pair of shoes, or downloading a report, UX writing guides you through the process. UX writing shapes a user’s experience with a brand while interacting with their product or service and influences directly on the business metrics.
UX writing is a relatively new profession, but as we use more and more digital products in our daily lives, it’s become an essential function within product and design teams at companies.
Examples of UX writing
If you use a smartphone or a computer, you encounter UX writing every day, all day. Good UX writing may catch your attention or make you smile, but more often than not, you won’t even notice good UX writing because it will make your experience with that site or app so smooth and hiccup-free that it won’t cause you to stop and deliberate or wonder.
UX copy is also a place where companies’ brand voice and personality are increasingly emerging. A unique voice and tone helps brands establish relationships with their users and differentiate themselves from competitors or other companies operating in a similar space.
UX copy takes many different shapes and forms, but here are just a few examples of where you might encounter UX writing “in the wild”:
- Google Docs uses UX writing in the “Share” feature to explain who will have access to a file depending on the way you share it.
- The UX copy on Airbnb’s home page prompts you with extra details (e.g., Where are you going? Add dates, etc.) in order to help you search for the right type of accommodation and location.
- Bank of America’s form guides you through applying for a business credit card. Important information appears within the form (e.g., Legal name of business), while additional information is available on demand by clicking on the tooltip (the ? icon).
What does a UX writer do?
UX writers (also known as content designers) are responsible for bridging the gap and developing a relationship between a product (including its design and functionality) and its target audience (the users), using words. While the texts they write may often be short, a UX writer doesn’t just spend their day hunched over a keyboard.
Here are just some of the things UX writers are responsible for:
- Crafting a product’s voice and tone, including understanding the brand’s vision, mission, values, and key messages and zeroing in on the right user personas.
- Collaborating with product managers and designers to help define (and refine) the user flow and design.
- Crafting the copy that will appear in different scenarios within the user journey.
- Carrying out user testing and gathering feedback from users as well as stakeholders within the company.
- Creating and managing a content design system, including choosing the right terminology and creating template messages that can be used over and over.
UX writers work as part of a team and interface with a variety of different types of people, including designers, product managers, developers, users, customer support team members, company executives, and more. They use lots of different tools and often have to write not just the UX copy that actually appears in the UI of a product but also supporting materials, such as documentation, style guides, and more.
The fundamentals of good UX writing
The UX writer’s ultimate goal is to make sure people can use the digital product easily and effectively and have a positive user experience.
Successful UX writing reflects the following skills:
- Knowledge and understanding of design - While copywriters may submit a Google Sheet without thinking about the final format of their words, a UX writer has to have a strong understanding of design and how users approach certain designs and layouts. They need to fully understand the product (including the names of the different components within the UI), how it functions (including the steps in the user flow), and what problems it solves for the end consumer.
- Experience with design tools - Since UX writers often have to (and should) be part of the design process early on, it’s helpful to be skilled in the tools of the trade. UX writers often have to have at least some familiarity with design tools, like Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD, and a general understanding of the steps in the design and development processes, from ideation through wireframing to production.
- Collaboration skills - UX writers must have good collaboration skills to work successfully with the designers and the entire product team, which typically includes product managers, developers, and company leadership. They may also spend time working with users and customers to understand their needs.
- Brand knowledge - UX writers need to thoroughly understand the brand’s messaging, voice, and tone so they can craft UX copy that reflects the brand’s values and personality and offers users a positive, consistent experience. If users are confused, they may click out of the journey, uninstall the app, leave the website, or abandon the shopping cart. Effective UX writing helps users build a good relationship with the brand.
The ability to write well and concisely - UX writers often need to pack a lot of meaning into a small space so they need to write efficiently, avoid jargon, and use active voice to make sure the user’s next step is crystal clear. In most cases, they’ll use a conversational style to make the product accessible for a wide range of users.
The UX writing process
Startups or small companies might have a single UX writer or contract out to freelancers. Large companies, such as Spotify and Google, often have hundreds of UX writers, including multiple UX writers on each team. Writers’ responsibilities and involvement in different stages of the process vary depending on the company, team structure, and product.
Teams working on a product go through several stages between conception and product launch, and teams often go back and forth from one step to another.
A typical workflow might include:
- Recognizing a user problem and ideating a solution
- User research and discussions with stakeholders
- Basic wireframing
- User testing
- User interface (UI) design and UX copy
- Collaboration with product managers to create and test high-fidelity prototypes
- Design review and approval
- Ongoing feedback, revisions, and release of additional features based on usage
Unlike other types of writing, UX writing isn’t just about the words—it usually involves more designing than writing. It’s also extremely collaborative and iterative, and typically rooted in research and data. UX writers play a key role in making a product user-friendly and intuitive and designing a positive user experience.