Why every product design team needs a UX writer
You probably aren’t thinking about them when you go online. (Well, unless you’re playing Wordle.) But words are everywhere. Labels, instructions, buttons, confirmation messages—they’re all crafted to ease you along.
At their best, these words make using an app or website feel effortless. At their worst, they can cause confusion or frustration. These words are UX content: messaging that guides users through a digital experience.
What's UX writing?
The most tangible output of UX writing is that content. But the discipline encompasses more than the words that earn their place on the screen. UX writers create a consistent user experience through content.
Some of us may go by content designer or product copywriter. We also share skills with content strategists and other UX specialists. It’s an evolving practice, and exact titles aside, one thing unites all UX content folks. Cue the dramatic music. We strive to tell a product’s story.
At EF Go Ahead Tours, UX works in cross-functional squads with product, engineering, and analytics. Operating in this structure means we can think about strategy, content, design, and functionality from the beginning. We each contribute unique perspectives. It's fascinating to get to learn more about what our teammates actually DO in our respective roles. The most rewarding part of this structure is that it’s given me the space to be an advocate for content in tech.
UX writing plays a key role
More and more people are recognizing how important content is in the product design process. And it’s pretty awesome to work with ones who do! The inclusion of UX writers will only be the norm when content-focused roles are more widely understood. So let’s take a look at the short version of what UX writers bring to the table.
1. Get to the root of the problem
You want a UX writer in your discovery process. We bring a healthy curiosity to it. I’m talking questions—lots of questions—as we explore the problem space together as a team. Some big ones that drive us might be: Is this really the problem we’re trying to solve? Why? What’s the context? What user research can we do to validate this problem?
We’re here to help teammates articulate questions, create artifacts from research, and keep the larger content strategy in mind during this phase. Plus, we love a good problem statement—and are always up for helping to refine one.
2. Make sure our users are heard
At Go Ahead, our travelers are at the heart of everything we do. Advocating for these travelers, our users, is central to our work as a UX team. So as a UX writer, I find moments to highlight the voices of our users whenever possible.
This doesn’t always look the same, depending on the problem we’re solving and who I’m working with. Sometimes I do qualitative research to complement the quantitative side of things. Sometimes I’m more involved after it’s complete, shaping the findings into a story. It helps to have a UX team like ours, where we each can wear different hats.
For example, if UX is doing user interviews, I may be the one doing some or all of these tasks:
Organizing notes & findings
Identifying & documenting themes
Pulling key quotes to illustrate themes
Quotes are a simple, powerful way to bring our users into the conversation. I love looking for ways to incorporate them into whatever step comes next, whether it’s an empathy mapping exercise, revisiting the problem statement, or moving on to prototyping. It’s all about keeping our users' needs top of mind as we move down the path to a solution.
3. Consider all the content
The solutions we create aren’t used in a vacuum. Each one is part of a much larger journey someone is on with our product. A UX writer is there to connect the dots and ensure content is presented in a way that provides a holistic experience to our end user.
When iterating on an existing feature or designing something new, we think about the whole content ecosystem. That means considering:
When in their journey someone will use this feature
What other content a user encounters across touchpoints
Where it lives in the IA (information architecture)
Whether it uses existing content or requires new
How we’ll create new content
Who will maintain the content
Let’s say we’re building a new account feature to prep travelers before going on tour. Reviewing the journey reminds us that clear log-in flow content is essential for getting travelers to actually use it. Or maybe we’re changing up the way we display traveler info. Understanding how that content has been collected across touchpoints allows us to come up with a solution that really works.
4. Write the right words
Now, we’re at the writing part! This part deserves its own post so stay tuned. For now, a quick recap of what we aim for.
Clear, concise, useful, and inclusive. Those are the principles I keep in mind when writing the copy that guides a user through a digital experience. Everything I write should help someone complete a task with ease. At Go Ahead, tasks could be anything from making a payment to adding a tour review to connecting with another traveler on our mobile app.
The copy has to feel connected to the language used on our other brand touchpoints, online and offline. Together, these types of copy form a cohesive narrative for our users. A UX writer doesn’t just create the words on the screen, we shape the larger story of our product.
No pressure, right? Well, we don’t do it alone. We work hand-in-hand with designers to bring the copy and visuals together. Our team uses Figma, a tool that allows me to write directly in wireframes or UI designs and makes this collaboration seamless.
As the only UX writer at Go Ahead, I can’t be everywhere all the time. Having incredible teammates who “get it” and involve me at the right moments gives me the chance to make a real impact through content. (Thanks, UX!)
UX writing is an emerging, evolving discipline, and it brings real value to the work tech teams do. In short, UX writers:
Get to the root of the problem
Make sure our users are heard
Consider all the content
Write the right words
Have thoughts about UX content or want to connect? Find me on LinkedIn here.