What is UX Writing?

We'll show you why UX writers make a crucial contribution to the success of digital products - and what matters in UX writing.

Table of contents
  1. 1. What exactly is UX writing?
  2. 2. Why is UX writing important?
  3. 3. How do UX writers work?
  4. 5. The most important qualities of good UX writing
  5. 6. Why do big brands place such a high value on UX writing?
  6. 7. 5 Tips for UX Writing

The discipline of UX writing is often misunderstood, confused or not fully grasped. A UX writer writes text for digital products, but a copywriter and a content designer also do this. Nevertheless, UX writing is a completely different discipline, which is very important for a quality criterion of digital products: The user experience, abbreviated in English as "UX".

UX writers however, in contrast to copywriters, do not write marketing or advertising text. They also do not, like a content designer, fill blogs with content or plan, like a content strategist in content management, the most effective use of this content to achieve company goals.

They write, but they write differently: UX writers ensure with their work, with their texts, that users use a digital product for a long time - and like it. They shape a digital product just as much as a UX designer and are, like him, a part of the prototyping process.

The misunderstandings are a good occasion for us to clear these up.

1. What exactly is UX writing?

UX writing (also: User Experience Writing) is the creation of texts, which appear in digital products, like software and apps. UX writing helps users understand the software, how they can interact with the User Interface, thus, the user interface. UX writing designs the texts in desktop and mobile applications, games, and multimodal experiences, including voice interactions, such as the dialogue with voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant. These can also control devices like televisions or music and navigation while driving.

The main goal of UX writing is to support users in carrying out their intentions and tasks. Everyone who visits an app or website wants to do something: play music, put something in the shopping cart and order, register, search... UX writers are interaction designers, but they do not work with graphic elements like buttons or menus, but with words.

The confusion mentioned in the intro is not improved by the fact that UX writers are also sometimes titled differently: sometimes Product Writers, Digital Copywriters or UX Content Strategists mean the same or something similar.

2. Why is UX writing important?

The quality of a software or a website depends on many factors. For example, it feels responsive and fast, as well as intuitively usable without long familiarization, how fast the invisible backend in the background, i.e. the servers, the internet connection and the programming work. All factors play together and result in a overall impression from the user's point of view, the User Experience or in German the user experience.

The elements are in a tension ratio: a great look does little for the users if the application feels stubborn. A fast performance can hardly shine through a confusing interface. UX writing largely determines the quality of a software. More and more companies recognize the value of this discipline. With good UX writing, the impression of a software is made or broken - although it is, to put it very simply, just about the labeling of controls like buttons or the short texts in an app.

But imagine for a moment, your favorite website or app would come without words. Perhaps the following has happened to you before: accidentally, you have set your smartphone, your game console or other device to an exotic language like Finnish or even Chinese. Then trying to get back to the language menu to change the language back to German or English is at least adventurous, frustrating or impossible. In not a few cases, only the hardware reset helps to start in the language menu again.

You see how important UX writing is. It is your navigator, leading you on the journey to the goal, and this journey is called User Journey. You have probably also heard this term: It describes the path of the user, for example from interest to purchase in an online shop or in general from intent to completion in an app. The navigator communicates throughout the journey, tells you for example how and when to turn and when you have reached your goal.

3. How do UX writers work?

UX writing is about leading users to their goal as mentioned earlier, so clarity and conciseness is required. UX writers create simple and understandable texts and user interface texts for products and web applications.

UX Writing is important because it creates conversations - between the users and the digital product. Without this connection, he or she may get lost and leave your product in favor of a competitor who can help them. UX writers prevent bad user experiences with instructions, information and error fixing messages. Their texts often provide assistance.

UX writing is also clearly the result of teamwork. UX writing is created in collaboration with

  • product design

  • product management

  • front-end developers

  • UX research

UX writing creates end-to-end user experiences, that means, the texts accompany the users on their complete user experience with the application, website or software.

An important, perhaps most important, requirement for good UX writing is knowing your target group. UX writers write for very different target groups:

  • general, normal consumers

  • specialists like developers, engineers or doctors.

With these tools you can track and analyze your UX measures/conversion optimizations:

4. Getting started with UX writing

The most important prerequisites are a basic knowledge of project and product management as well as talent and interest in writing. Experience in user interface design, such as software development or web design, is also helpful.

UX writing is a very demanding, comprehensive discipline, which requires a lot of experience and know-how. There are good offers for UX writing courses on the web, for example on learning portals like Udemy - or on-site courses like those from Haufe Academy.

Exchange ideas in networks for UX writers - or follow in general business networks, like LinkedIn, the hashtag #uxwriting. Otherwise, as in all writing disciplines: starting is important, but daily practice is even more important. Experience then makes you a good UX writer.

It is important to clarify some terms at the beginning:

  • UX (User Experience) describes the entire user experience. UX describes the experience of users with the software

  • UI (User Interface) describes the user interface

UX writers write texts for the user interface (UI) and all other texts that are necessary to support users in interacting with a product or in experiencing it. They thus shape the entire User Experience (UX).

UX writing is a design discipline for User Experience. You write the text that is seen or heard on a user interface (UI). A user interface is the interface between the person (user) and the computer. Both work together to achieve an intention (user intent), to get something done.

The user interface is greatly influenced by the end devices, for example the screen size. The space for the user interface on a small smartphone screen is significantly different from a smart TV. Yet there are apps like YouTube that run on all devices and should be as uniformly operable as possible despite the different size.

Then the user interfaces are operated with different input devices. Tapping on the smartphone screen means clicking on the laptop. In addition, there are different buttons, scroll lists or selection menus. And apps like YouTube offer voice input at some points, like in the search.

Another difficulty is that users today like to switch from one device to another and still expect a seamless user experience. For example, they start an order in an online shop on the smartphone and complete the checkout on the laptop.

5. The most important qualities of good UX writing

For a seamless experience in UX writing, the right choice of words is important: they must be consistent, for example, the "shopping cart" on the smartphone should be labelled as "shopping cart" on the laptop or desktop computer - at the same time the words must relate to the end device, i.e. "click" on the desktop and "tap" on the smartphone.

The crazy thing is: Good UX writing is practically invisible to the users because it makes the operation feel intuitive and natural. Bad UX writing, on the other hand, is not only noticeable, but painful. In the early days of software development, graphic designers or developers usually did the UX writing themselves. Both are not naturally writers and are more experts in graphics or programming. Result: The users were frustrated and the success of entire products was not achieved.

This brings out one of the most important qualities of UX writing: empathy. UX writers need to know how the target group thinks, what they want and how they talk. Gamers speak differently than doctors and they speak differently than general online shoppers. UX writers not only have to hit the right tone, they have to understand what the users want at the right moment. They need to answer these needs in clear, precise and very short texts, which can be quickly understood. The challenge is always high: Users are impatient and quickly feel bothered, confused or misunderstood by texts that are too long or imprecise.

6. Why do big brands place such a high value on UX writing?

Anything that makes tasks difficult or hampers users can cause frustration and have fatal consequences:

  • Users prefer to use the app (or the associated hardware such as smartphones, smart TVs or voice assistants of the competition)

  • Users abandon a task, such as an order process, leave the filled shopping cart - and order from the competitor

  • Users lose trust in a provider and a brand because of the bad experience

UX writing is therefore an extremely important discipline. A basis of the value and success of Apple devices is their intuitive operation. UX writing plays an enormously important role in this. Apple understood this early on and with its Human Design Guidelines provided a basis and clear guidelines on what software for Apple should look like and how it should function.

Screenshot der Human Design Guidelines von Google

Screenshot of the Human Design Guideline by Apple

At its developer conference WWDC (World Wide Developers Converence) there was a session on "Writing for Interfaces", in which two Apple UX writers emphasize how important their work at Apple is - and is perceived.

Apple understood the enormous importance of UX writing earlier than other brands. For example, for the perfect interplay between software and hardware, which together produce a user experience. And the seamless interplay of Mac, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch - for which the same mechanisms in apps have an essential importance. It is no wonder that Apple is today one of the most valuable brands in the world and competitors are trying to copy this success. Therefore, the demand for good UX writers is high and will strongly grow in the future with more digital products like websites, apps and cloud applications.

7. 5 Tips for UX Writing

With some tips you can start successfully in UX writing - or improve it:

1. Clear and short: UX texts have to work quickly, nobody has time to read long text. Be brief. Pay attention to flawless, correct language, which gives clear instructions.

2. Active: Pick up the readers with active statements. In passive voice they are picked up less well - as in this sentence.

3. Interactive: UX Copy is a dialogue between users and software. Give clear instructions on what users should do next. Answer possible questions before the next step.

4. Collaborative: As already mentioned, UX Writing is teamwork. Coordinate your texts closely with the design of software and hardware - and the teams involved.

5. Scannable: We don't actually want to read on screens. Therefore, use short paragraphs, subheadings, bullet points for listings. This gives structure, accelerates readability and provides orientation.

Stefan von Gagern
Stefan von Gagern

Stefan von Gagern arbeitet in Hamburg als Freelance-Content-Strategist. Er unterstützt B2B/B2C-Kund:innen wie Adobe, Amazon, Google oder Sage mit Content rund um Digitalisierung, Daten und Customer Experience. Das Credo des Tech-Journalisten: Content ist der wichtigste Motor für digitales Business.

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