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UX Writing

Your constantly-updated definition of UX Writing and collection of topical content and literature

What is UX Writing?

UX writing is the practice of creating the text in a user experience. It aims to improve user experience by informing and engaging the user. Examples of UX writing include notifications, titles, buttons, instructions, labels, descriptions, controls and warnings. 

In this video, UX writer and author Torrey Podmajersky explains what UX content is (UX writing being a main component of it), the different forms it takes and where it fits in the cycle that engages the user. 

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UX writing is essential for seamless and intuitive user experiences and helps eliminate pain points. When done well, it can help users navigate a product more easily, understand its features, and accomplish their goals more efficiently. On the other hand, poorly written copy can lead to confusion, frustration, and ultimately, a negative user experience. 

Microcopy is small pieces of text within a user interface that help users understand how to use a product or service, like button labels, form field instructions, error messages, and other short snippets of text that guide the user through the user experience. Accordingly, microcopy falls under the umbrella of UX writing.

Screenshot of Airbnb's mobile app. Some microcopy is annotated to indicate labels, buttons, icons and descriptions.

Examples of microcopy on Airbnb’s mobile app.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0 and Airbnb, Fair Use

The Evolution of UX Writing 

Language and text have always been part of digital products and user experiences, but previously they needed manuals, generally written by technical writers. The product's usability depended on the manual's quality, in other words, how clear and concise the manual was. These manuals eventually developed into online help and other forms of “user assistance”. 

With the rise of user-centered design, intuitive experiences and increasingly complex digital products, so came the need for UX writing. Now we can navigate user experiences without a manual.   

In the 2000s and especially the 2010s, UX writing became its own discipline and position within design. 

Here are some key factors that have contributed to the growth of UX writing as a distinct field:

  • The growth of mobile and web-based applications: The proliferation of mobile apps and web-based applications has resulted in the exponential growth of UX writing. 

  • The rise of user-centered design: As digital products and services have become more user-centric, the need for clear and compelling language in interfaces has become increasingly important. UX writing has emerged as a way to ensure that the language in a digital product is clear and effective and consistent with the brand's voice and tone.

  • The increasing importance of brand voice: It is more crucial than ever to have a consistent brand voice across all channels, including digital products. That means that UX writing has become an important part of brand strategy. UX writers work closely with brand managers and marketers to ensure that the language in a digital product is consistent with the brand's overall messaging.

  • The recognition of the value of good UX writing: As companies have recognized the impact that good UX writing can have on user engagement and satisfaction, the demand for UX writers has grown. Many companies now have dedicated UX writing teams or hire freelance writers to work on their digital products.

The Importance of UX Writing

Effective UX writing is a crucial element of a positive user experience for digital products and services. Here are a few reasons why UX writing is so important:

  1. Clarity and understanding: Good UX writing ensures that users understand what they see on their screen and how to interact with it. Clear and concise language helps users to navigate a digital product or service with ease, which reduces frustration and increases engagement.

  2. Consistency: Consistent language and terminology throughout a digital product or service can reinforce the user's understanding of the product's functionality and build trust. If you use one word to describe a particular term, ensure that the same word is used throughout the experience. Additionally, a consistent brand voice also helps to strengthen the user's relationship with the brand.

  3. Accessibility: UX writing can make a digital product more accessible to users with disabilities and by extension, better for all users. For example, there should be text for all elements (icons, buttons and other affordances) so that screen readers and other assistive technologies can pick them up.

  4. Tone and personality: A well-crafted tone and personality in the language of a digital product can create an emotional connection with users, which builds brand loyalty and increases user engagement.

  5. Localization: Good UX writing recognizes the nuances of language and culture in different regions of the world—digital products should have different versions depending on the user’s location and language.

Animated gif of Dribbble's 404 page

Dribbble’s 404 page is colorful and playful. The numbers, 404, are made up of a collage of different designs of the same color. It has a slider just below it which lets you change the designs and the color of the numbers! The copy, interactive element and usability of the page are all consistent with Dribbble’s brand. It’s playful and has personality, while still highlighting the creators.

© Dribbble, Fair Use

UX Writing in the Design Process

UX writing is an integral part of a product and as such, UX writers or content designers should be involved in every step of the UX design process.  

The approach will vary depending on the team, organization, budget and other factors, but ideally, UX writers will collaborate with designers, researchers, and other stakeholders early in the design process to understand user needs and business goals. This collaboration helps to ensure that the language in the product is consistent with the overall design and aligns with the user's expectations.

As the design process progresses, UX writers work closely with designers to ensure that the language used in the interface is clear, concise and useful. The team will test their language choices to ensure that users can easily understand and interact with the product.

UX writing is more than simply writing text; it should also create a harmonious brand voice and tone throughout the product. This involves collaborating with brand managers and marketers to ensure that the language in the product aligns with the brand's overall messaging and tone.

UX writers will also work with developers and product managers to ensure that the language and UX content is implemented correctly in the final product. This collaboration helps to ensure that the language in the product is not only clear and effective but also practical.

User experiences need to be intuitive and easy to use if they’re going to succeed. UX writing plays a significant role in a digital product's usability, so good UX writing is essential for an overall positive user experience. With consistent, clear and accessible language, UX writers can help to increase user engagement, build trust and strengthen brand loyalty.

Learn More about UX Writing

Watch UX writer and author Torrey Podmajersky’s Master Class UX Writing: How To Use Words As A Design Power Tool.

Check out Nielsen Norman Group’s UX Writing Study Guide.

Read Torrey Podmajersky’s book on UX Writing, Strategic Writing for UX: Drive Engagement, Conversion, and Retention with Every Word.

Discover Nick Babich’s 16 Rules of Effective UX Writing

Literature on UX Writing

Here’s the entire UX literature on UX Writing by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about UX Writing

Take a deep dive into UX Writing with our course User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide .

If you’ve heard the term user experience design and been overwhelmed by all the jargon, then you’re not alone. In fact, most practicing UX designers struggle to explain what they do!

“[User experience] is used by people to say, ‘I’m a user experience designer, I design websites,’ or ‘I design apps.’ […] and they think the experience is that simple device, the website, or the app, or who knows what. No! It’s everything — it’s the way you experience the world, it’s the way you experience your life, it’s the way you experience the service. Or, yeah, an app or a computer system. But it’s a system that’s everything.”

— Don Norman, pioneer and inventor of the term “user experience,” in an interview with NNGroup

As indicated by Don Norman, User Experience is an umbrella term that covers several areas. When you work with user experience, it’s crucial to understand what those areas are so that you know how best to apply the tools available to you.

In this course, you will gain an introduction to the breadth of UX design and understand why it matters. You’ll also learn the roles and responsibilities of a UX designer, how to confidently talk about UX and practical methods that you can apply to your work immediately.

You will learn to identify the overlaps and differences between different fields and adapt your existing skills to UX design. Once you understand the lay of the land, you’ll be able to chart your journey into a career in UX design. You’ll hear from practicing UX designers from within the IxDF community — people who come from diverse backgrounds, have taught themselves design, learned on the job, and are enjoying successful careers.

If you are new to the Interaction Design Foundation, this course is a great place to start because it brings together materials from many of our other courses. This provides you with both an excellent introduction to user experience and a preview of the courses we have to offer to help you develop your future career. After each lesson, we will introduce you to the courses you can take if a specific topic has caught your attention. That way, you’ll find it easy to continue your learning journey.

In the first lesson, you’ll learn what user experience design is and what a UX designer does. You’ll also learn about the importance of portfolios and what hiring managers look for in them.

In the second lesson, you’ll learn how to think like a UX designer. This lesson also introduces you to the very first exercise for you to dip your toes into the cool waters of user experience. 

In the third and the fourth lessons, you’ll learn about the most common UX design tools and methods. You’ll also practice each of the methods through tailor-made exercises that walk you through the different stages of the design process.

In the final lesson, you’ll step outside the classroom and into the real world. You’ll understand the role of a UX designer within an organization and what it takes to overcome common challenges at the workplace. You’ll also learn how to leverage your existing skills to successfully transition to and thrive in a new career in UX.   

You’ll be taught by some of the world’s leading experts. The experts we’ve handpicked for you are:

  • Alan Dix, Director of the Computational Foundry at Swansea University, author of Statistics for HCI: Making Sense of Quantitative Data

  • Ann Blandford, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at University College London

  • Frank Spillers, Service Designer, Founder and CEO of Experience Dynamics

  • Laura Klein, Product Management Expert, Principal at Users Know, Author of Build Better Products and UX for Lean Startups

  • Michal Malewicz, Designer and Creative Director / CEO of Hype4 Mobile

  • Mike Rohde, Experience and Interface Designer, Author of The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking

  • Szymon Adamiak, Software Engineer and Co-founder of Hype4 Mobile

  • William Hudson, User Experience Strategist and Founder of Syntagm

Throughout the course, we’ll supply you with lots of templates and step-by-step guides so you can start applying what you learn in your everyday practice.

You’ll find a series of exercises that will help you get hands-on experience with the methods you learn. Whether you’re a newcomer to design considering a career switch, an experienced practitioner looking to brush up on the basics, or work closely with designers and are curious to know what your colleagues are up to, you will benefit from the learning materials and practical exercises in this course.

You can also learn with your fellow course-takers and use the discussion forums to get feedback and inspire other people who are learning alongside you. You and your fellow course-takers have a huge knowledge and experience base between you, so we think you should take advantage of it whenever possible.

You earn a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you’ve completed the course. You can highlight it on your resume, LinkedIn profile or website.

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