I purchased and read Torrey Podmajersky’s Strategic Writing For UX book for Christmas. It’s an absolutely brilliant book that I’d recommend for anyone working in UX or building products. A sentence review of the book, if one is ever needed: My highlighter was put to good use as the pages are filled with gems.
Spending most of the holiday season indoors afforded me ample time to read and do other low-energy activities. I gorged on a lot of UX Writing material in that time. This post is going to be about the things I’ve learned so far.
1. UX Writing is Not Content Marketing
Content Marketing and UX Writing are similar in the sense that a good wordsmith would excel at both. But they differ in operation. Content, as part of the Marketing function, naturally operates at the top of the funnel. Content Marketing is an Attraction & Conversion Phase endeavour. Depending on the product a company sells, Content Strategy will adapt to attract and rein in the intending user.
UX Writing, on the other hand, is not a Marketing function. UX writers sit in the Product or Design org of a company. Where Content Marketing attracts, engages and converts the user, UX Writing ensures that the user has an optimal and seamless experience while using the product. Think of confirmation messages, notifications, error messages, label, buttons and descriptions, etc.
Good UX Writing is sublime and intuitive. The users don’t come there (the product) to read. In Torrey’s words, “our words aren’t there to be read, savoured and appreciated, but to pass unremembered while they help get somebody to the thing they want.” UX Writing helps users navigate and interact with a product without thinking or particularly noticing the words.
2. A Product Should Deliver a Consistent, Specific Experience
Every product has a unique personality or a set of traits that define the experience for the users. There’s how it looks — which the design defines, and then there’s how it feels — defined by the words, for the most part.
Concepts like tone and voice are a huge part of what makes a product’s experience recognizable and distinct from others. The kind of experience crafted onto a product is determined by two things: the purpose of the product/company and the people who will use the product.
Words matter, and UX Writing is at the core of defining a holistic and consistent experience for the product.
3. Writing is Design (Too)
UX Writing is a design endeavour as well. When words have to be contextual, clear and concise, then you have to figure out how to make the most of the tiny real estates the words will sit on. In a general sense, the concept of font sizes kind of buttresses the point.
Perhaps a more functional way to explain this point is the fact that designers do a significant amount of UX Writing when designing interfaces for products. In the absense of a UX Writer on the team, designers typically input the words that define the experience of the product. For the most part, designers do a good job in this regard but a wordsmith at the helm of a Content-first design setup makes all the difference. That’s why Product teams have UX Writers.
How I Got Here
My interest in the field was sparked a year earlier, perhaps, and has been growing quietly and steadily in the background of my professional life since. As my interest in building products soared, UX Writing is proving to be the compass with which I navigate the path.
Since it’s a relatively new field, there’s not a lot of places to go and learn the craft professionally. UX Writers Collective, UX Writing Hub and Content Design London are some of the more popular institutions that have UX Writing, Content Design and Microcopy programs. These programs all offer a certificate at completion, so you might want to check them out.
I decided to buy and read books instead, seeing as the programs are pretty pricy for me. In addition to Torrey’s book, I also purchased Content Strategy For The Web by Kristina Halvorson & Melissa Rach and Content Design by Sarah Richards.
Also, Medium has a ton of UX Writing content you can dive into*. The design team at Dropbox, Adobe and Co have some good UX Writing content out there, and there are publications dedicated to the craft.
Simply put, UX Writing is hot right now in tech and, in my opinion, is the most immersive relationship a writer in technology can have with product development. In broader terms, other than the Product Owner, no other stakeholder in the Software Development Life Cycle is as involved as the UX Writer. Because they have to craft words into every pane and phase of the product and shape the entire experience. UX Writing is high stakes work, and you wouldn’t be crucified for mistaking them (UX Writers) for Product Managers.
* Additional Resources:
Why UX Writing is So Important In Product Design — UX Planet
Get To Know The Booming Field of UX Writing — Adobe XD Ideas