IN THIS ARTICLE
- What Is UX Writing?
- What Does a UX Writer Do?
- The UX Writing Process
- The Role of a UX Writer in the Design Process
- Prerequisites to Becoming a UX Writer
- UX Writer Salary
- UX Writer Career Path
- How To Write Compelling UX Content
- Examples of Great UX Writing
- UX Writing FAQs
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In recent years, user experience (UX) writers have emerged as a critical part of the UX design process. UX writing is a field that emerged out of the necessity for digital products to communicate with users effectively. We are all surrounded by user interfaces constantly these days, and it is the job of UX writers to ensure that we can get things done on them easily.
As a result, UX writing has become one of the more lucrative portfolios in the world of tech. Glassdoor currently lists UX writing jobs that start at $63,000 and go all the way up to $210,000 a year.
In this article, we’re going to tell you all about UX writing, including what it is, how it fits into the product design process, and why it’s one of those writing jobs that’s become so important in the world of tech.
What Is UX Writing?
User experience writing is the development of written content that helps users understand how to navigate websites, apps, and other digital products. Essentially, UX writers are content strategists who write for digital products and their users.
What Does a UX Writer Do?
UX writers are multidisciplinary professionals with an understanding of content strategy, interaction design, and content design, among other things. They combine their knowledge of these areas to write copy that helps users have intuitive experiences while using digital products.
The UX Writing Process
In this section, we take a look at how UX writers go about doing their job within a tech company.
Understand the User and the Context
UX writing is a job that demands empathy toward users. It is essential that UX writers put themselves in the shoes of potential customers so that they can come up with a larger content strategy that serves their needs.
UX writers use various means to get to know their users better. Some might employ user personas to understand their target audience. There are various other quantitative and qualitative UX research methods that can come in handy in this undertaking.
The context that you are writing in is also an important consideration. There are significant differences that emerge when you’re writing the copy for a form field, as opposed to writing it for calls to action. UX writers need to factor in the context so that they produce copy that is appropriate to that use case.
Define the Problem
Every piece of copy produced by a UX writer solves a problem. And before you can begin to solve a problem, you need to define it. That might involve talking to the product design team, product team, and other stakeholders to find out the requirements for a particular project. Once that’s done, it helps to have a written statement delineating exactly what problem you’ve been tasked with solving.
Once you have a problem statement ready, it’s time to start doing your research. That can mean looking at numerous examples to figure out how a particular problem can be solved by employing UX writing techniques.
Looking up competitors can also play a key role in your research process. You don’t necessarily have to copy what they’re doing, but it helps to know how others in your industry address the issues that you’re facing.
The benefit of doing some UX research is that you don’t need to come up with your own groundbreaking ideas every time. Rather, you can see how other UX writers solve similar problems and then come up with an action plan that fits your user context.
The rest of the ideation process needs to be highly specific to the product and user demographic that you’re targeting. You will have to spend some time brainstorming ideas and then culling that list down based on what you think will work best for the market that you will be serving with your UX writing.
The final version of your work will emerge only through an iterative process. You will find that you will have to constantly come up with new copy and refine it based on your own knowledge as a UX writer and the qualitative and quantitative feedback you receive from focus groups and such.
Prototype and Review
Prototyping can help you see your writing through the lens of a digital product. It’s one thing to see your words in a document and a whole another to see them in the prototype of a website or app. There are a few different prototyping tools that you can use to get that done.
Finally, it’s time to review your work. That means going all the way back to the problem statement and seeing whether the UX writing that you’ve done helps solve it. The review process in your company might include interactions or presentations with the design department and other stakeholders where you defend the decisions that you’ve taken as a UX writer.
The Role of a UX Writer in the Design Process
As we’ve already seen, UX writing is multidisciplinary and requires an understanding of a few different fields. Among them, design is one of the most important areas that UX writers need to understand.
Consider a case where the UX team is tasked with creating a search box in an app. The design team would deal with the positioning of the box and its appearance. The UX writer would determine what text users would see that would convey that they’re looking at a search box.
These two elements need to work together seamlessly. Users would infer both visual and textual cues to figure out how a search box works. And that’s why UX writers need to understand the design process and be able to work with designers—whether that’s graphic designers, product designers, or other kinds of designers—as part of their work.
Here are a few design practices that you should be familiar with as a UX writer:
Design thinking covers the broad design principles involved in developing human-centric designs.
A product designer works across the product development lifecycle to ensure that the product is designed to cater to a user’s needs. It helps UX writers to understand the basics of product design so they can communicate with product designers and understand requirements quickly.
Users don’t interact with a microwave in the same way that they do with a phone. UX writers need to know how interaction design factors into their work.
Prerequisites to Becoming a UX Writer
Now that we have a better understanding of what the job involves, here are a few prerequisites that come ahead of a career in UX writing.
UX writing is a new field, and not one that’s well-represented in academia at the moment. For that reason, those who enter the field tend to have degrees in areas like marketing, communications, or English. You could also enter UX writing as somebody who has experience in UX design. Companies are open to hiring candidates who’ve completed UX design bootcamps and want to apply their learnings to a job in UX writing.
What’s more important than your educational background is the skills that you possess. Below are the most important technical and soft skills you need to have for the job.
- User research: This skill helps you understand your users and how your writing can help solve their problems.
- Usability testing: This ensures that the copy you produce is relevant across platforms and devices.
- Prototyping: A key step that precedes the actual design phase, which provides structure to your written material.
- Common design tools: Figma, Gimp, InVision Studio, and similar UX design tools for when you need to produce basic prototypes.
- UX design: UX writers should understand basic UX design terminology and methods to collaborate with designers easily.
- Content strategy: This is a skill you will use to build a high-level strategy that will guide the writing that you produce.
- Communication: So that you can collaborate well with your colleagues and gather user feedback efficiently.
- Empathy: It’s essential that you are empathetic with your users and understand why they use the applications that you contribute to.
- Collaboration: UX is a team sport, and you should be able to work well with product managers, UX designers, and coders.
- Problem-solving mindset: You should slowly develop go-to problem solving methodologies for different issues that you run into in your work as a UX writer.
UX Writer Salary
Here’s how much you can make as a UX writer in the different stages of your career.
Junior UX Writer
The average salary of an entry-level UX writer in the United States is $81,892, according to ZipRecruiter.
Mid-Level UX Writer
With junior UX writers making around the $80,000 mark and salaries in the field going up to $166,000, mid-career UX writers can expect to make upward of $100,000 annually.
Senior UX Writer
The median salary of UX writers in the US is $120,700. Senior UX writers can expect their salaries to start around that median figure and then go up.
UX Writing Manager
As the image above shows, the high end of the salary curve for UX writers tops out at about $157,000 per year. That’s about where a UX writing manager can expect their salary to be.
UX Writer Career Path
Here’s a look at the career trajectory that you can expect to traverse as a UX writer.
Junior UX Writer
The following are the responsibilities of a junior UX writer:
- Develop microcopy for apps and other digital products
- Turn complex concepts into clear copy remembering to maintain a consistent tone of voice and sticking to a given style guide
- Adapt copy developed centrally for a product to different platforms and device types
Mid-Level UX Writer
The following are the responsibilities of a mid-level UX writer:
- Conduct user research and ensure that the materials developed to adhere to discoveries made about user needs
- Collaborate with the design department to understand the design language and design principles of the project
- Work with subject matter experts to develop technical content for projects that demand it
- Oversee the work of junior UX writers
Senior UX Writer
The following are some of the responsibilities of a senior UX writer:
- Work with the product manager, design head, and other stakeholders to lay out the high-level goals of each project
- Create a style guide for the team to follow
- Improve UX writing processes, both in terms of the quality of the input and the efficiency of the process
- Work with the hiring manager to onboard resources
- Explore opportunities to enhance and automate the content development process
Get To Know Other Design Students
How To Write Compelling UX Content
Here are a few tips on how you can write effective UX content:
Be Clear and Concise
UX writing requires conciseness. You’re going to find yourself writing the text for a button or a submenu quite often. These are situations where you have one word or maybe two to let users know what to do. So you need to learn how to communicate with a great deal of parsimony.
Make Your Writing Useful
Every word that you put on a screen needs to guide your user toward their intended goal. When you refine and review your work, make sure that it passes the usefulness test.
Show, Don’t Tell
Always make sure that you show users what to do with a product. Employ visual cues and directions that let them know what a product can do and encourage them to explore what it can do for them. Refrain from simply telling users about a product, which will leave them with limited information about its capabilities.
Active Voice, Not Passive
Use active voice as much as possible in your UX writing. It gives users the sense that they’re reading from an authoritative and reliable source. There will be situations where you need to use the subtlety of the passive voice but use it sparingly.
Follow the Principles of Progressive Disclosure
Progressive disclosure is a UX strategy in which information is delivered in small, manageable chunks. It is a concept that ensures that the users of a digital product aren’t overloaded cognitively in trying to learn how to use it.
Write Copy in Context
The copy that you write for an app won’t work for a website. The text that works well on a banking website may not be what is called for on an e-commerce website. The essence of good UX writing is that it appeals to the needs of the context in which it is placed.
Examples of Great UX Writing
Here are a few examples of UX writing that you can look up to if you need some inspiration.
Merriam Webster 404 Page
This is the error message displayed on Merriam Webster’s 404 page.
Why It Works
This error message works great as a piece of UX writing because of how contextual it is. Merriam-Webster is a dictionary and the microcopy on the page makes reference to what the site does. It also goes on to explain why a particular page might not be found on the server, which helps users understand what’s going on in a situation that otherwise might be confusing to them.
The Dropbox homepage combines social proof, unique value proposition, and user incentive, all in very concise text.
Why It Works
The homepage immediately tells users why they should pick the product (“easy to use, reliable, private, and secure”) and also provides social proof by citing its 700 million registered users.
Also, notice how the button at the top of the homepage says “Start for free.” The way that is phrased gives users an added incentive to get started with the product as opposed to a button that says something more generic like “Sign up.”
UX Writing FAQs
We’ve got the answers to your most frequently asked questions:
What’s the Difference Between UX Writing and Technical Writing?
Technical writing focuses only on writing documents that contain instructions on how to use a piece of software or other products. UX writing is a broader field that encompasses all writing that is done for digital products.
What’s the Difference Between UX Writing and Copywriting?
Copywriting is writing that is done with the aim of selling a product. UX writing, instead, focuses on making products intuitive and usable.
Is UX Writing Difficult?
UX writing is challenging in that it is distinct from other forms of writing and uses unique principles. You will have to forget most of what you know about good writing and learn how to craft text specifically for user experience use cases.
Are UX Writers in Demand?
Yes. UX writers are in demand and that demand is only expected to grow more in the future. LinkedIn lists over 5,000 active openings for UX writers in the United States.
Does UX Writing Require Coding?
No, UX writers don’t need to know how to code as part of their job. This is because any programming that needs to be done with regard to user interfaces is handled by front-end developers.
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