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5 Practical Tips for UX Writing and Critical Mistakes You Should Avoid

Appealing to your readers through smart UX writing has become a staple of the digital industry. Whether you design an app, a WordPress website, or an online storefront, carefully guiding your visitors through their customer’s journey is essential for lead generation. According to TopTal, 88% of customers will never return to a website after a poor user experience, with 62% unlikely to engage that brand further. 

However, data by SuperOffice also indicates that 86% of visitors are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Nailing the tone of voice, messaging and aesthetic suitable for your target audience is very difficult without an initial trial and error period. With that, let’s discuss the practicalities of UX writing and how you can avoid the pitfalls commonly associated with writing user experience-centric content in 2021.

The Essence of UX Writing and Why You Should Care for It

UX writing has become something of a buzzword in numerous digital industries over the years, but what does it actually represent? Per definition by UX Design, it is a process of “designing with words” or writing “content embedded in products.” Writing associated with “UX writing” consists of but not limited to:

  • Error text and notifications
  • Exit popup alerts and modals
  • UI button text
  • Product and service descriptions
  • Push notifications
  • In-app tooltips and tutorials
  • Calls to action

UX writing is writing words to guide people on how to interact with products, services, websites, or apps. Its goal is to bridge the gap between traditional writing and copywriting, allowing writers and designers to create actionable words and phrases with clear outcomes. It means that there is no clear content type related to UX writing – anything for software UI to website navigation and smartphone apps applies. This makes UX writing a difficult topic to discuss in isolation, as “user experience writing” is a vague term without its adjacent products and services. While more complex than traditional sales and conversion-oriented writing, there are good reasons to care for UX writing in your creative endeavors:

  • Empathic emotional appeal toward your users
  • Friendly encouragement of action and conversion
  • Practical mapping of your users’ customer’s journey
  • Building of long-term trust and loyalty with users
  • Improvement of your brand’s reputation and market standing
Photo of a man in a dress shirt looking at a white board with diagrams on it
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Practical Tips for UX Writing – How to Make the Words Work for You

  1. Cut Redundant Text Out in Favor of Actionable Writing

When it comes to practical UX writing, the less you say, the better. “Practical” writing requires you to be concise, informative, and appealing while also playing to your customer base’s expectations. Data by Social Media Today shows that businesses have an average of 10 seconds to impress visitors, while 70% of businesses lack actionable writing altogether. A good rule of thumb is writing your UX content-free form and then editing unnecessary fluff through revisions. 

Don’t be burdened by too many rules out of the gate. Say what you need to say, and then look for ways to cut out any excess fat from the copy. Short and actionable UX writing will appeal to a wide range of user profiles, including young and elderly, and international non-native users.

  1. Embrace Positive Connotation in Your Writing

There are ways to announce bad news to your users without seeming negative while doing so. If your products are out of stock or if the eCommerce store is facing issues, your users don’t need to know that in so many words. Let’s take a look at a quick example of positive VS negative UX writing: 

You are not allowed to purchase that product; come back later.

Or

We are sorry, the product you’ve chosen to buy is currently unavailable – leave us your email below, and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

The difference between taking a positive or negative stance in your UX writing can mean a world of difference for your user retention and reputation. Always cushion bad information with a positive outlook and address your users as individuals with thoughts and feelings – they will return the favor with loyalty.

Photo of an open moleskin style notebook with a pen
Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash
  1. Work Closely With Your Designers and Developers

Creating UX writing in a vacuum will often result in unnecessary last-minute cuts and editing of your work. Instead of settling for half-products of your efforts, consult your graphic designers and web or app developers on the project you are writing for. 

Ask about the functionality they are building into the project and how liberal you can be with length and special characters in your UX writing. Test your writing with UI and web page mockups before the final copy is sent for implementation to have time to rethink things. Collaborating with your visual artists is especially true in multilingual UX writing and localization, where different languages will use different sets of characters.

  1. Don’t Try to Reinvent the SEO Wheel – Stick To Expected Keywords

It’s always a good idea to play to your target audience’s expectations when writing UX-centric content. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is more than a technicality – it can effectively transform the way you create new content. Keywords related to certain niches have been embraced as industry norms – every visitor will know what a “Shopping Cart” or “Wish list” is. 

Trying to come up with creative or witty names for preexisting concepts in web or app design won’t end well for your user retention. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to keywords specific to your industry. Instead, check out platforms such as Google Keyword Planner and SEM Rush in order to find the most suitable words and phrases for your writing.

  1. Be Consistent In Your Tone and Terminology

Given that websites and applications consist of multiple pages of interlinked functions and UX writing, your tone of voice and terminology should follow a pattern. Using different spelling or outright addressing various functions of your app or website differently page-to-page will make your brand look very unprofessional. If you choose to name your log-in “Log In”, make sure to do so in every instance that keyword shows up in your UX writing. Don’t switch to “Sign In” or “Login” in some pages while reverting back to “Log In” on your landing page. The same applies to any word or phrase related to your project. This is because consistency is important in creating a cohesive experience for your audience. Make a repository of words for your project with tools like Evernote for notes and Power Thesaurus for terms.

Photo of a man's left hand placing yarn on a diagram hanging on a wall
Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Critical Mistakes in UX Writing You Should Avoid

Now that we’ve discussed how you can make UX writing work in your favor let’s address the other side of the coin. Making mistakes in UX writing can cost your brand the precious first impression you need to convince visitors to convert into customers. 

Based on Finances Online, 80% of customers will pay more for brands with better UX, with 70% of businesses treating it as a competitive differentiator. Not only that, but B2B stakeholders may be less inclined to reach out to you due to poor UX writing representative of your lacking professionalism. To avoid that, here are some of the most likely UX writing pitfalls you may come across during your writing process: 

  • Robotic lack of personalization

Given how prevalent social media, instant messaging, and mailing apps have become, customer expectations toward written content have shifted. While it’s essential for your UX writing to be professional, it should also be welcoming and friendly toward the reader rather than distant and calculated. Liberally using personal pronouns such as “we”, “us”, “you”, and others will make your brand far more humane than it would be otherwise.

  • Poor grammar coupled with multilingual UX writing

Depending on the type of services you offer through your website or app, you may be inclined to translate your content into multiple languages. While the idea is solid, its execution is equally important, as poor spelling and formatting can backfire very quickly. In addition to working with native writers, you should also visit the paper writing services reviews and look for a UX writing editor. Doing that will ensure that your content is free of grammar mistakes and formatting errors, be it UI writing, blog posts, or product descriptions.

  • Double meanings and riddles in UX writing

When writing content for UX, you should always treat your customers as non-native speakers to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding. The best way to make your UX writing as legible and actionable as possible is to keep your wording as actionable and direct as possible. While this may result in less creative content, it will also help you avoid miscommunicating certain aspects of your UI or services with international customers.

  • Invoking guilt with users for not making a purchase

Guilt-tripping people with emoticons or illustrations of sad characters if they don’t buy your products shouldn’t be done. A good example of what not to do in your UX writing can be seen in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery game for iOS and Android. Shortly after the game begins, users are greeted with a scenario in which they have to escape a dangerous creature – by paying for in-game energy. The alternative is to wait for 8 hours and watch your character slowly strangled, causing a public fiasco, prompting developers to redesign it. Instead, choose to be professional and simply thank the user for their time with your brand in hopes that you will see them again soon.

Screen capture of a tweet posted about Hogwarts Mystery game fiasco
Screen capture from Twitter provided by the author

The Art of Practical UX Writing (Conclusion)

Being a UX writer isn’t simple. You must keep a lot of things in your mind while trying to squeeze as much good copy as possible into a design. However, UX writing is also a rewarding and creative experience despite its limitations and inherent complexity. Start by going through the practical UX writing tips we’ve discussed and see if you can add a personal touch to them from your experience. UX writing is a young profession with plenty of room for development and innovation, making it a great career choice for writers and visual artists.

Featured image by Startaê on Unsplash.

Nicole Garrison is a content strategist, writer, and contributor at a number of platforms for marketing specialists. Moreover, she runs her own blog LiveInspiredMagazine. She is a dedicated and experienced author who pays particular attention to quality research.