Since the dawn of advertising, writers and designers have shared a symbiotic relationship - feeding off of each other to produce great content.
For years, this partnership coupled copy with design but following the emergence of digital design agencies, attitudes have shifted. In many cases, copy is insourced by the companies of today and written by marketeers. As a result many products and services fail to resonate with their target users.
Even though design is, for the most part, a powerful resource, user-centred copy’s unwavering ability to connect with users on an emotional and, sometimes, human level is difficult to emulate. When copy is done well, in the form of UX writing, it is incredibly powerful. For example, when conducting user research on first time buyer journeys for Post Office mortgages, one participant described being overwhelmed with financial jargon and believed the process too complex to complete.
Once we presented the same participant with a webpage that spoke her language, and demystified the proposition, she experienced such relief that her emotional reaction meant we were unable to continue with the session. This, for us, is proof that with the right copy, companies can ensure their designs are intuitive and navigable while producing end user outcomes which make a difference.
When copy becomes design
UX writers take ownership over user-centred language, as copy and visual design should be one and the same in aiming to best serve the end user. Equally, it adds cohesion to the designs and can even be the differentiator to set digital experiences apart.
In recent times, many digital agencies have nurtured their design capabilities. As a result, they uphold the expertise to execute compelling digital experiences. Content and copy, in particular, is often the key differentiator in these experiences. For example, Monzo has commendably monopolised the challenger bank landscape through their use of ‘hot coral’ and well-conceived copy that resonates with their users’ needs and expectations.
The brand’s clever use of emojis throughout their terms and conditions means that their users are far more likely to read them. Fundamentally, this kind of copy is central to engagement and user retention. If the text is too lengthy or the tone is inappropriate, experiences can fall apart making them difficult to navigate whilst switching users off.
What do UX writers bring to the table?
A UX writer’s skill set comprises a combination of copywriting, communications, SEO and experience design expertise. Though marketing copywriters may have the technical know-how to generate bespoke copy, they can have their own agendas. Typically, they are conditioned to produce copy which is both promotional and focused on driving sales. In relation to UX, these qualities are important if there is something to sell but, when misused, can lead to bad or dark UX practices.
Similarly, while marketeers uphold some of the qualities required to create copy which is user-friendly, UX writers are best placed to do so. Unlike marketeers, UX writers have a firm understanding of the design research and experience design process. This informs and enriches copy in interfaces and on product or service pages.
With a strong comprehension of your users, what works for them and what doesn’t, UX writers help people to – through the conversational interfaces they populate - connect, engage, understand and make well informed decisions for themselves.
From micro-copy to translation, the role of a UX writer is varied which is why their craft is so transformative. In our experience, their effort improves conversion, establishes brand authority and ensures that onboarding is successful. Text which is concise and clear in tone helps to communicate risk and compliance statements making the complex and mystifying simple while improving overall product/service offerings.
Going forward, design’s unchartered data layer – a collective information reserve currently used to improve decision making – can help inform and modernise user-centred copy through rounds of iterative testing with large data sets allowing UX writers to hone their craft further.
With all things said and done our message is: make UX writing part of your design process today - the game is afoot.