UX Writing vs Copywriting

Being a professional writer requires you to wear many hats. You have to write, edit, proofread, and source material daily while creating material that matches specific styles and tones. Whether or not copywriting is your job title, professional writers are quite familiar with the concept. In recent years, a new form of copy has exploded onto the scene: user experience (UX) writing. This has prompted new and experienced writers to consider adding to their skillset or transitioning careers. If you’re interested in learning more about UX writing, you’ve come to the right place! Slice created this comprehensive guide to answer some popular questions about UX writing, including:

  • Can a copywriter become a UX writer?
  • How is UX writing different from content writing?
  • What skills do you need to be a UX writer?

It may surprise some, but the two writing disciplines are quite similar. For example, the B2B copywriting tools that some of you may already be familiar with can aid UX writing tasks as well. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a closer look at each type.

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting is a fundamental element of marketing and advertising efforts for any business. It can be helpful to think of copywriting as a large-scale call to action. Every single piece of copy that a company uses is trying to drive activities such as:

  • Buying a product or service
  • Signing up for a newsletter
  • Following the company on social media
  • Signing up for a free/trial account

Much of the technical ability will cross over between these two types of writing. An easy way to remember how the two are different is to think of copywriting as a tool for marketers and advertisers to create new customers.  Then, think of UX writing as a company speaking directly to its current customers to help them navigate their tools.  It may also help to note that UX writing is often featured within and across the platform or service itself, while copywriting exists separately in things like blog articles, websites, etc.

What is UX Writing?

UX writing is a subset of UX design that involves creating copy for apps, websites, and other digital products that help users navigate the platform. The types of content you can expect to create as a UX writer include:

  • The words on a digital restaurant menu
  • Buttons and labels on a website or app
  • Automated chatbots
  • Error messages 
  • Instructions to guide first-time users through a product

These short pieces of written content are often called microcopy. A UX writer will write this copy to create an intuitive format for the user. It can be helpful to think of a UX writer as an arm of the design team that must speak directly to customers.

What Is the Purpose of UX Writing?

The primary goal of UX writing is to guide users to complete tasks in web products or mobile apps. Essentially, UX writers are the designers for interaction. Let’s look at an example. You visit a new website for the first time and are about to make a purchase. As the checkout screen is loading, the webpage crashes. Uh oh, what do you do now? Did you already get charged? The only thing you have to go off is the text on the screen that just says “error, please try again.” In that scenario, the user is entirely helpless and will likely never use that company again. 

A good UX writer will understand customers’ needs and potential thought processes to write compelling copy that will point them in the right direction. Whether that be a help page, customer service number, or other resource, UX writers aim to make the user experience as pleasurable as possible at all junctions. 

It is easy to think that the communication a company has with its customer is limited to blogs or social media, but UX writing determines the tone of a design’s communication with users. This enables a human connection to form between a user interface and the user. This is essential if a company wants to keep customers from becoming frustrated and ultimately take their business elsewhere. 

Speaking of the organization’s point of view, let’s look at some of the benefits you could bring as a UX writer. 

  • Improve the Product: With any digital product, the user interface (UI) must be filled with effective copy and complimentary graphical elements. On your product page, the way you write “buy now,” “sign up,” or “purchase” can impact whether or not someone decides to take the desired action. 
  • Better Brand Image: Creating a positive brand image is all about the way you connect with your customers. A difficult-to-navigate website or mobile application can sour your image in the public’s eye. 
  • Increase Sales: It may not seem immediately obvious, but having a website or app that is easy to use and follow means you will have an easier time directing the customer to the buying stage.

The copy of UX writing may seem simple and insignificant at first glance, but investing your time and resources into developing the right skills can make you an invaluable resource for a company. 

What Makes Good UX Writing?

Previous experience as a technical writer or copywriter can give you an advantage when starting the UX writing process. However, following UX copywriting best practices will help strengthen your writing. Here are a few examples.

  • Clear and Concise: Both the size of the screen and the way people comprehend the information in a digital space affect the copy. Concise does not mean short in this context; it means efficient. For example,
    • Inefficient copy: Are you ready to check out the items in your cart?
    • Efficient Copy: Ready to check out?
  • Consistent Tone and Voice: We already mentioned how UX copy could build trust, but it can also be confusing and jarring if this text does not match up with the user’s experience. For example, humor can often be a helpful tool for engagement with UX, but it can be counterproductive to include it in the error screen when a customer may already be frustrated. 
  • Empathetic: As a UX writer, you must put yourself in the user’s shoes. What do they want? How can you improve their experience with your platform? Ultimately, the purpose of UX writing is to make the experience seamless for every user. Don’t assume user knowledge or technical ability. 

When trying to answer “How do you write an effective UX copy?” you must understand that although every writer has their own unique style, maintaining these three practices is always a good idea. Keep in mind that as a UX writer, you will be working with a designer or design team. Your copy and their designs must ebb and flow together for either one to succeed. A wonderfully designed website or app will fail if the language is hard to follow or littered with grammatical errors. The same result can happen if the UX copy is perfectly crafted, but the software’s functionality prevents the user from accomplishing anything. 

Is UX Writing a Good Career?

Understanding if UX writing is the right career path for you will depend on the type of person and writer you are. There are fantastic copywriters out in the world who simply do not enjoy the elements of writing UX copy. On the flip side, there are plenty of people who have little writing experience that are able to thrive in this position. Let’s take a look at what skills can make you stand out when you look for UX writer jobs.

  • Technical writing skills
  • Grammar skills
  • User research and user-centric thinking
  • Web design skills
  • Communication skills
  • Basic usability testing skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Teamwork

As an organization that supports writers through and through, Slice loves to see new opportunities for writers to grow and expand their skills. Whether you are looking to shift from a similar career like copywriting or are entering into this field for the first time, you may still be wondering, “Is UX writing in demand?” We are happy to report that this field is growing and very much in demand. 

UX writing in some circles is also referred to as technical writing, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a positive outlook for the future. The growth rate for these types of positions is around 6% from their projections. 

How to Become a UX Writer?

If you have decided that UX writing is the path for you, then you are likely wondering where you can go to start this journey. Fortunately, you do not need a degree in order to become a UX writer (though some employers may prefer one). However, if you are starting fresh in the professional writing world, then taking an online course to get a UX writing certification is a great place to start. Along with teaching you the necessary skills to ensure that you are capable of performing the job,  UX courses will also provide you with a portfolio of work. This is essential as organizations looking for a UX writer will often require this to assess whether you can perform the tasks they need. Some of the more popular and respected UX courses within the industry are 

If you are not in the position to spend the money on longer courses, don’t panic just yet. Enrolling in email UX writing challenges is a free yet effective way to start the process of becoming a UX writer. This is a great introduction to the world of UX writing, where you will get daily or weekly prompts that often end in a larger final piece that you could use in a portfolio. Note that you won’t be writing emails for the challenges; that is just the way they will be delivered to you.

Another element of becoming a UX writer is being an effective and efficient writer outside the microcopy world. The responsibilities of becoming a professional writer will mean you bounce across different spaces while you research. This can quickly turn into a messy situation. This is where a platform like Slice can set you up for success in your writing career before and after UX. Because writing, research, and project management are siloed, writers burn valuable energy. Hunting for files, scrolling endlessly, searching for browser tabs, and coordinating projects with others can take up a majority of your time.

Slice: The Dream Home For Professional Writers

The blank page can be the death of any writer, and unfortunately, that is where all processes must begin. When it comes to support, writers have often been left in the dark. For example, graphic artists get slick software studios. Programmers get hyper-efficient workbenches. Writers, however, were left to hang out and dry. Slice is a program by writers for writers, which means every inch of the platform is made to make your process easier. 

Contact us today if you are ready to take your writing to the next level. 

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