UX writing

User experience (UX) writing carefully considers information that addresses people’s contexts, needs, and behaviors. While UX writing uses the same skillset as design, UX writers use words to guide users through an experience. The primary goal of UX writing is to help users successfully complete tasks in digital products and mobile apps in an intuitive and natural way, like writing a review, understanding an error message, or navigating a page. UX writers must continuously ask themselves, “Does the language in this digital product help my customers easily navigate their way around and do what they need to?”


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What is UX writing according to industry leaders?

Here's what thought leaders in the UX writing space had to say. 

Kinneret Yifrah and Niaw de Leon call UX writing microcopy 

Kinneret Yifrah, founder and manager of Nemala and a microcopy expert, describes UX writing as the words and phrases in a digital product that guides the user’s action. According to her, there are a few key rules to writing great microcopy, such as writing clearly, conversationally, and in a way that inspires action. 

Niaw de Leon, copywriter, UX designer, and author of Microcopy, describes UX writing as the little bits of content often overlooked to the detriment of the application or website. 

Scott Kubie says UX writing is “design, but words”

Scott Kubie, a designer who also writes, authored the book Writing for Designers. He argues that UX writing is part of the UX design discipline. A UX writer focuses on words and language as part of a design team, as a graphic designer might specialize in typography. 

Kristina Halvorson discusses UX writing as part of a content strategy 

Kristina Halvorson, the owner of Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy, describes content strategy as what guides the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content, which can include UX writing. 

Sarah Winters believes in designing with data 

Sarah Richards, author of the book Content Design and creator of GOV.UK’s content style guide, helps organizations implement a content design methodology. Instead of focusing on words, she strategizes to discover the content that best meets the user’s needs and then validates that it does just that. 

What’s the difference between UX writing and marketing writing? 

The difference between content marketing and UX writing boils down to different strategies, KPIs, and writing styles. 

While marketing writing ties back to ROI and MQLs to benefit the business, UX writers care less about how much traffic they receive in favor of helping others with their messaging. UX writers measure success by whether or not they’re giving the customer the right information at the right moment to make the right decision for them. 

And while marketing writing emphasizes copy that turns heads, UX writing is more subtle and prioritizes simplicity and clarity. 

What makes a good UX writer?

Organizations in need of a UX writer look for someone heavily experienced in UX design with interest in copywriting. Writing effectively for UX means you need a deep understanding of your users. Only a small portion of a UX writer's day is spent writing. For the majority, they’re researching, designing, collaborating, and ensuring a product’s feature or task is communicated as clearly as possible. Typically, UX writers are great listeners and voracious learners with a high emotional IQ, all of which are helpful traits for this position.  

Tips for great UX writing 

1. Maintain consistency of language 

Consistent language can include style, tone, tense, and naming conventions. UX writers should collaborate with the customer education team to ensure documentation and product language are aligned. 

2. Use plain language 

The simpler your content is, the wider your audience will be, and the less head-scratching your user will have to do. Writing in a way that’s easy to understand (“reducing cognitive load”) is a significant part of plain language

Here’s a checklist to reference: 

  • Write in clear, conversational language
  • Remember that every word matters 
  • Get to the good stuff first
  • Keep forms short and simple
  • Avoid distractions
  • Make searching intuitive

3. Conduct content testing 

Without content testing, you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to learn early on how users understand and react to various tones, word choices, and content structures. Content testing determines whether your target audience can find, understand, and comprehend your content. It starts early in the UX process and reoccurs whenever new content is implemented. From the homepage to product pages, navigation, error messages, and menu buttons, testing copy ahead of time will help you identify which copy approaches work best and which miss the mark, so you can amplify the strategies that pay off. 

4. Empathize with your customers 

Empathizing with your customers should always be top of mind whether you’re pre- or post-development. For example, think about how customers will use features. 

Anticipate their needs (and ideally leverage usability testing) and ask: 

  • Do they find it easy to understand what this feature is or does and how it relates to them? 
  • Does this button need a tooltip or further description? 
  • Will they find this error message helpful or irritating? 

Related reading: 3 copywriting tips that will immediately increase your conversion rate