Refining the craft of UX writing one word at a time

Refining the craft of UX writing one word at a time
Apr 20

Donna Palermo

Digital Platforms

Here at League, we diversify our content offering by keeping abreast of the latest writing forms and lately, we’ve had user experience (UX) writing on our minds. So let’s dive right into the principle of this writing form and explain how we’d like to see it formed in the content department.

Christine van Zyl, our digital copywriting team lead, has this to say: "I believe creating compelling UX copy is a must in a world where almost all the content we consume is digital. UX copy serves more than just a functional purpose, it is becoming part of brand identity. Gone are the days when merely using the words 'Click here, Sign Up and Register' were enough to get people to interact. I'm excited to learn how to create UX copy that doesn't just convert, but truly resonates with a digital audience.”

What’s UX writing?

We’re used to writing copy that sounds impressive. We would invoke evocative language to entice a reader to take a particular action. UX writing flips that on its head. The name of the game is to be as clear and as concise as possible and break up the content into bite-sized pieces. We need to use as few words as possible without losing the meaning. Every word that appears on-screen should have a purpose.

This example by UX Planet (a great source for user experience insight) perfectly illustrates how to get it right:

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Our aim is to merge the power of content and storytelling to better connect with digital users.

David Jenkin, senior digital copywriter and our resident tech guru, says: "There is beauty in simplicity and that's what UX writing is all about. It teaches you to speak plainly and say what you mean, which is a good lesson for any situation."

UX writing in action

We have already been crafting this type of content for our Digital Platforms for several years, but recently, the likes of UX Planet have helped to solidify the term. Lusanda Futshane, senior digital copywriter at League and quite the creative connoisseur on the team, says: “While working on the DStv app, I learnt the importance of being clear, insightful, approachable and optimistic when writing microcopy. DStv is a consumer brand but the app required users to provide sensitive information like their ID numbers when signing up. By leading with these four goals, I could always layer on the brand’s unique voice and tone (where appropriate) because the foundation needed to make the app helpful was already laid.” Check out Lu’s blog on microcopy to see how he worked his magic.

Understanding content design

A UX writer must understand design, or at the very least, be mindful of what it will look like post-design. It will be good for us to learn basic design principles. We need these principles at the back of our minds, guiding us before we even craft a sentence. When writers work with designers, they think about the information hierarchy on the page. It’s not about what is more important: content or design. They are two sides of the same coin. Both need to work together because the user requires both elements.

“The way we experience UX language is different from other platforms because its main purpose is to make the user’s connection with a digital product as easy and compelling an experience as possible. Unlike other forms of writing, the best UX writing is magic that happens in the background and makes the reader the star of the show,” says Eamon Allan, senior digital copywriter and bibliophile.

Laying the foundation

To make sure we’re not shooting in the dark, we have crafted a checklist to guide all writers when UX writing is required of them. This also aids in the editing of UX-specific pieces so that they are not edited the same as other forms of copy. For instance, we would usually frown upon “writing as you speak”, but this is what users want to see in UX environments. What does this mean for you? Our UX writing best practice checklist ensures that all UX copy adds value to your digital platform.

Rehana Loonat, our editor and grammar mentor, says: “When I think of UX writing, the words of Mark Twain cross my mind. He famously said: ‘Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.’ I suppose Twain’s words could aptly summarise UX writing. It’s the art of concise writing, the skill of using words efficiently. It’s about banishing long blocks of text and breaking them down into bite-sized, reader-friendly chunks.”

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