How to Tell Your Mom You’re a UX Writer

Dear Mom,

It’s December now, and you know what that means—one big family dinner behind us with more on the way. As much as I love seeing everyone and all the yummy food, last time was a bit stressful for me as I tried to explain my career, and I felt that you just weren’t getting it. So I wanted to write you this letter to help you understand what it means to be a UX Writer.

Mom, I’m a UX Writer.

I know you dreamed that I would end up becoming a life-saving doctor, a brilliant lawyer, or maybe a genius nuclear physicist. I didn’t turn out to be any of those things, but you should know that my profession is important and has the potential to impact the daily lives of millions of people, which is pretty cool, right?

Anyway, the world is changing, and those professions might’ve been way cool back when, but now UX is where it’s at! By the end of this letter, I know you’re going to both understand me better and be proud of me. And you can tell Aunt Eileen that you don’t care if little Robbie is all grown up now and became a lawyer because your kid is aUX Writer.

OK, here’s how to start. You know how your smartphone has all those apps on it? Gmail for emails, Spotify for music, Booking for hotels. Well, my job is to make sure the person using those apps (what we call the user) has the best possible experience.

Get it? UX = User Experience.

And a great experience usually means an easy one, like how little kids or even Nana can use an iPad.

The art of making things “easy to use”

Remember how, when I was a kid and got a new toy that we had to put together, Grandpa would always throw out the instructions, and then we would always have to go get them out of the trash when he put it together wrong?

That’s because instructions are important. They are there to guide people. Humans. Users.

From cavemen who painted on cave walls to pass on messages to the tribe, to Grandpa putting together IKEA furniture (using instructions so easy even a caveman could follow them), instructions make it possible to use the products and devices in our lives. Part of what I do is write the instructions so you can use your favorite apps.

Yes, I know when you use your favorite apps it doesn’t always feel like you’re following instructions. That’s because, when UX writers do it right, you don’t even notice it. You just enjoy the experience of using the app. Because in apps, the instructions are built-in, so Grandpa can’t throw them away!

But besides the instructions, product designers (the people in charge of the user experience) need to make sure that what they build is as intuitive to use as possible.

Maybe when you hear the word “design” you think about making things look nice. But designing products is much more than that. As Steve Jobs said:

That’s why a teacup is designed with a handle so you can hold it when it’s hot, or why Tupperware lids fit tight so nothing spills out. If it looks nice but doesn’t work well, it’s because it’s been designed poorly. Remember, the easier it is to use, the better the design.

You can check out the book, The Design of Everyday Things, which has more on this topic.

The age of digital products

Today, teacups, Tupperware, and toothbrushes aren’t the only types of products we use. Really, a product is anything that creates specific value for a group of people. That means the apps on your phone or the websites you use are also products. But they’re a different kind of product—a digital product.

Like other products, we prefer the digital products that work best.

We use Google because they designed the best search engine. We use Facebook (well, some of us do) because they designed the best social network experience. Just like we wouldn’t use a teacup without a handle or Tupperware with a lid that didn’t fit, we won’t choose a poorly designed digital product—whether we realize it or not.

So designing digital products is a pretty important job! Unfortunately, since it’s still pretty new, we don’t always know what to call it. Along with UX writer and product designer, there are other names people use:

  • Product Owner
  • Product Manager
  • User Experience and/or User Interface Designer (UX/UI Designer)
  • Content Designer
  • Content Strategist
  • UX Web Copywriter
  • All-Powerful UX Ninjacorn Warrior (OK, I made that one up)

See Mom—you’re not the only one confused here. But even though some people (even in major tech companies) still think product design is about making aesthetically pleasing apps, now you know that’s not what it’s all about. Of course, there’s still a lot more to it. Product design is also about research, psychology, marketing, business analysis, testing, and even software development.

So much more than making pixels look pretty.

Heart of the matter

Still with me Mom? ‘Cause now we’re getting to the good stuff. Now that we know what product design is all about, we can talk about what I do all day—UX Writing.

I spend my days on a mission—a mission to create intuitive digital experiences for everyone. I do this by talking to people who use the digital products I work on, learning about the kind of problems they have using them, and then I make those products better.

You know how I’ve always been kind of a wordsmith, right? That means my superpower is creating intuitive digital experiences using the magic of words. A huge, and I mean absolutely massive, humongous, ginormous part of making a product great and creating an amazing user experience depends on the words.

Humans communicate primarily through language. Any person using a product is in a sense communicating with that product. This is a human-product interaction, and it needs to feel as human as possible.

Someone needs to write the words and create the voice of that digital product, hence, the UX writer.

And you can be extra proud because there aren’t many places in the world (shout out to the UX Writing Hub course) that teaches people this profession. Yes, Mom. I had to teach myself a profession that didn’t even exist just a few years ago, but it was worth it since countless companies are in need of it today.

You can call me a UX Writer, Content Strategist, or Product Designer—it doesn’t make much difference to me. As long as I get to work on my mission of having a positive impact on millions of people, I’m happy with my career choice.

Why I care so much about UX writing

Now that we spend so much of our lives online, designing the digital products we use is a big responsibility. Here are just a few examples of what good UX Writing and product design looks like.

The writers of Zocdoc are doing an amazing job of making their website intuitive enough for people to order doctors online when they’re not feeling their best.

At Lemonde, they make sure we have a better experience getting instant insurance. Instead of the tired old process, Lemonade gives the user a digital web product that makes it super easy and makes getting insurance feel like you’re talking to someone you can trust. They do this with short texts (we call it microcopy) and by creating a voice for the product that resonates with their users.

The list goes on and on and on…

At the end of the day, people choose the most intuitive and easy-to-use products, with some added personality, that give them a great experience.

I do massive amounts of research, deconstruct ideas, and generate new ones to solve problems in the product. UX Writers are always working to optimize and there is always room for improvement. So don’t worry about me being unemployed any time soon. 

In fact, more and more companies are hiring people like me these days as they learn about the benefits of having a dedicated UX Writer on board.

I promise to do it responsibly

Unfortunately, not all product designers and writers are saints and some are actually using their superpowers for evil. They manipulate customers so that their companies can make extra cash. We call this dark UX design, but that’s a story for another day.

Don’t worry mom, I promise that I’ll never go to the dark side. That’s not the kind of impact I want to have on people’s lives. 

I hope that clears things up. I know I may not be a junior investment banker like the neighbor’s daughter, or a lawyer like Robbie, but what I do is pretty special. It lets me be a writer, which I love, and work in tech with a great salary. 

Thanks for being the best mom ever and raising me to be who I am. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Much love 🙂

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