IN THIS ARTICLE
- What Is UX Writing?
- What Does a UX Writer Do?
- 5 Essential Skills All UX Writers Need
- How To Become a UX Writer in 4 Steps
- What Career Opportunities Exist for UX Writers?
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What is a UX writer and how do you become one? Use our step-by-step guide to find out everything you need to know user experience writing and how to become a UX writer in 4 steps.
What Is UX Writing?
UX writing is the process of creating a user-friendly microcopy that guides users through a digital product, such as a website or mobile app. UX copy enables users to understand how to use a software interface from onboarding to accomplishing specific tasks. The ultimate goal of UX writing is to eliminate friction and enable users to complete tasks autonomously without seeking technical support. This strategy involves displaying information in a logical sequence using easy-to-understand language that is tailored to a specific user persona. UX copy is unambiguous: it tells users what to do next, or presents a menu of options to choose from that are tailored to the user’s specific needs.
Microcopy for the user interface includes landing page text, buttons, error messages, menu labels, security notes, terms, and conditions, as well as instructions on product usage. Unlike marketing copy, which is designed to convert leads into customers, UI copy is simply meant to facilitate the user flow (the path taken by a user towards a particular outcome) in a logical, intuitive manner.
As the apps and websites we use, grow increasingly complex, there is a need for guidance on how to use the interface, locate certain features, and complete tasks.
What Does a UX Writer Do?
UX writers work on everything from calls to action, navigation buttons, menus, error messages, chatbot conversations, and more. Their job is to critically evaluate copy from the perspective of the user, identifying any missing logic, confusing jargon, or ambiguity. They do this by having empathy for the user—what are the user’s needs, wants, and pain points? What concerns might they have about signing up for a particular service? What are their reasons for seeking a particular software solution? UX writers cultivate empathy for the user by participating in UX research, which involves interviewing potential users to understand more about their lives.
UX writers generate copy for:
- First-time user onboarding
- Error messages
- In-product marketing, like engagement interstitials (pop-up ads)
- Contextual help and tooltips
- Form field labels and lists
- Legal notices
As an integral member of the design team, UX writers participate in the product development process, from UX research to design, prototyping, and engineering. They also help create the brand or product voice and establish content guidelines for all content creators within the organization to follow. In a philosophical sense, user experience writers are charged with advocating for the user: if a product manager or engineer suggests a feature that would be confusing to users, the UX writer must stand up and suggest how it could be done better. In some companies, UX writers go by alternative job titles such as content strategist or content designer.
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5 Essential Skills All UX Writers Need
UX writers have a unique combination of skills that differentiates this role from other types of writing jobs. Above all, UX writers must be able to work within the constraints of the interfaces they’re designing for, taking into account screen size and how users acquire and retain information in a specific medium. This can be a chatbot, a smartwatch, a mobile app, or even a voice assistant.
- User empathy. Understanding the user is the number-one skill of a successful UX writer. Empathy means being able to walk in the user’s shoes and understand their motivations and pain points. Additionally, it means writing copy for users with different levels of prior knowledge, language proficiency, literacy level, and tech-savvy. The most important aspect of user empathy is being able to evaluate the customer journey from an outsider’s perspective—something that may not be possible for the engineers and designers who are heavily involved in product development. Is there any friction while trying to get from point A to point B? Can certain words be misconstrued? Is there a natural progression in how the information is revealed?
- Writing skills. A strong command of the English language and grammatical structures is essential. Beyond that, however, UX writers must be concise. Making every word count is a specific skill that enables UX writers to work within tight space constraints and avoid overwhelming the user. Finally, UX writers must understand the unique purpose of UX copy and the goals of the organization, such as signing users up for a service or generating leads.
- UX design. UX writers are different from marketing copywriters in that they understand the principles of UX design, such as how to conduct user research, how to integrate research findings into design deliverables, and how to advocate for the user. More importantly, they understand the purpose of UX design within the product development process and their role within it.
- Knowledge of design tools. The best approach to writing UX copy is to work directly within a design tool rather than using a word processor. Doing so ensures UX writers are involved in every step of the design process, from low-fidelity prototypes to QA testing. It also enables UX writers to see how their copy fits within the user interface constraints and how it helps or hinders user flow. Familiarity with design tools such as Sketch, Figma, or user testing platforms like Hotjar is a must-have skill.
- Communication skills. UX writers will work in cross-functional teams, communicating with engineers, product designers, UX designers, and even marketing and sales teams. Depending on the design maturity of the organization, they may find themselves having to explain the value of UX writing and pushing back on design changes that alienate a user. UX writers also need to be able to interpret UX research and understand what it means for UX copy and vouch for their editorial decisions to other stakeholders.
Related Read: What Does a UX Designer Do?
How To Become a UX Writer in 4 Steps
Understand product design/UX design.
Learn the rules of microcopy.
Teach yourself how to use design tools.
Build a UX writing portfolio.
There is no set education path for how to become a UX writer. There weren’t even any courses dedicated to UX writing until recently, so a general UX design course was your best bet. Now, there are plenty of online resources, short courses, and tutorials to help you learn UX writing skills.
1. Understand product design/UX design.
UX writers are highly specialized writers who understand the number-one principle of product design: solving problems for users. They also know how to evoke a brand’s voice in their writing, empathize with the user, advocate for the user throughout the product development process, and collaborate with cross-functional teams. Finally, they have a strong foundational knowledge of UX design, including user flow and design deliverables.
2. Learn the rules of microcopy.
Unlike other types of copy, microcopy is subject to space limitations like screen size and other technological constraints. Microcopy must be written with user intent in mind: intuiting what goals the user wants to achieve at a given time and displaying relevant information while hiding superfluities. UX writers must also understand how users acquire and retain information on different digital channels; for example, writing a conversation for a chatbot is very different from designing an interaction on a voice assistant. The UX Writing Library is an incredible resource that contains books, blogs, podcasts, events, and more for current and aspiring UX writers.
3. Teach yourself how to use design tools.
UX writers must work directly within the design tools, the product team is using. Tools like Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD are widely used and have similar interfaces, but they come with a learning curve. You’ll need to learn how to work on design deliverables from sketches to high-fidelity prototypes. Most design tools have a freemium version or offer free trials.
4. Build a UX writing portfolio.
Since UX writing is a nascent field, education and work experience aren’t the deciding factors in getting hired. What’s more important is having a body of work that shows employers your capabilities. If you’ve never had an internship in UX design, start by finding an app or website that needs a copy overhaul. Map out your process, from idea to finished product. Include screenshots, sketches, interactive prototypes, wireframes, and other design deliverables to show your design process and demonstrate your understanding of UX design principles. If possible, create user personas using publicly available data. Better yet, show ‘before’ and ‘after’ screenshots of the app or website you sought to fix juxtaposed with your work.
What Career Opportunities Exist for UX Writers?
Any company that produces software or some other digital product can benefit from hiring a UX writer. As software grows increasingly complex, demand for UX writers is rising exponentially. UX writers can work for tech companies or agencies, while some work in consulting or as freelancers. UX writers in the U.S. earn six-figure salaries, with an average pay of $119,531 per year, or $57 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter. Earnings for U.S.-based UX writers are significantly higher than in other countries. For comparison, average earnings for UX writers in Switzerland is $85,527 and $62,859 in Australia.
Where these roles were once considered overlapping, there are now separate job boards for UX writing, conversation design, and chatbot design. In fact, the UX writer’s purview will only expand as digital interfaces are designed for more than just text inputs but gestures and other inputs beyond voice. UX writers of the future can expect to design for touch, swipe, pivot, rotate, eye movement, and expressions.
So, where should you start?
The best way to get started in UX writing is to educate yourself about the field. If you’re new to UX design, start by learning the fundamentals of experience design. Build your understanding of UX design as a philosophy, what UX research is and how it fits within the overall product development process, and what types of design deliverables are expected. Springboard’s Introduction to Design Course will teach you the fundamentals of UX design and learn whether a career in design is for you. This course is for people who are interested in UI/UX design but are not ready to take the full leap to switch careers. You might find it useful to take a writing course as well if you don’t have a writing background. If you decide to deepen your knowledge of UX design, Springboard offers a UX Career Track that gets you job-ready in six months with hands-on projects along with 1:1 mentoring from a design expert.
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