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Whether you’re a newbie just getting into UX writing, or a UX writing boot camp grad trying to keep up your skills while you job hunt, you’re going to need to spend time improving your UX writing skills … but maybe not as much as you think.
You may feel like your life is too busy to work on improving your UX writing skills, but there are lots of simple tasks that can lead to leaps forward in your UX writing practice. Even if you can only spare 5 minutes a day, the ideas in this article can help you build your UX writing skills.
So start with the task that fits best into your life and career goals, and try spending 5 minutes a day. You may be surprised how quickly you see your skills improve. And if you’ve got 30 minutes a day to spare, why not try them all?
1. Try a weekly UX writing challenge
Social media has ushered in a golden age of challenges. UX writing challenges may not be as memorable as pouring ice water on your head, but they can do a lot more for your skills. Check out our UX writing challenge email course. You receive 4 UX writing prompts and lessons in your email. Brush up on some research basics, voice & tone, writing an empty state and more. It’s is a great way to build or keep up your skills, even if you have a lot on your plate.
While it may be tempting to spend more time on these, it’s best to work quickly. Working quickly is invaluable for two reasons. It helps bust through perfectionism and procrastination, and it prepares you for the pace of real world work. While you may not have to create something in five minutes on the job, being able to think quickly and share your ideas is incredibly useful in the workplace.
When you’re done, you can post to social media if you want to share your work with others. And if you’re particularly happy with your results, you could include it in your portfolio. This simple exercise provides structure and offers community support, great for burgeoning UX writers.
2. Make your own challenge
UX writing challenges are great because they provide tasks for you and allow you to work on a broad range of skills. If you’ve been at this a while however, you might want to focus on a specific area, something you need to improve or something you just enjoy writing.
A great example of this is Lauren Reichman’s website. Lauren spent 30 days writing a 404 error message a day for her website. She includes the results as part of her portfolio. So in addition to improving her error message writing chops, she shared the results with potential employers.
Some elements you might choose include: notifications, email subject lines, CTAs, toasts, and more. Making your own challenge is probably better for folks with a bit more experience, since it’s good to get a sense of the whole field before focusing. But if you want to dive right in and have an idea, go right ahead!
3. Add to your swipe file
A swipe file is a term from copywriting/advertising. It refers to a collection of effective copy examples that a writer can borrow (“swipe”) inspiration from. As far as I know, there’s not a UX-writing specific term for this, but I definitely think we should swipe the concept.
This is more of a habit than something to sit down and do for five minutes a day. But it’s an important one for any UX writer. As you go about your day, you’ll probably encounter examples of UX writing on websites and apps and even out in the real world. When you see something that works well, take notice—and then take a screenshot or photo.
Daily or weekly, whatever works for you, go through your collection to organize and annotate. You can sort in whatever way and with whatever tools work for you. Since the goal is to create a database or folder to keep great examples of content that you can look to for inspiration, it might help to sort them by element. As you go through them, take notes. Why does this piece of content work? Could it be better? Knowing what works will help you think more deeply about UX writing and that will serve you well in your career.
4. Improve someone else’s work
Okay, so we’ve talked about finding examples of good copy. Now let’s talk about the bad and the ugly. These may stand out more because they’re likely to cause frustration and confusion. The next time you feel annoyed with an app, instead of cursing at your phone, take a screenshot and try to fix it.
You may have heard about Jason Yuan, who created a redesign of Apple Music after being rejected for a job. That’s awesome. It also definitely took him more than five minutes a day. For these purposes, don’t think about redesigning a whole product. Instead, think of small changes that could positively impact the product. Think about the moment of friction that caught your attention and address just that piece. Small changes can have big impacts.
This is something you can do on pen and paper, but it’s easier than you might expect to make changes to a website (ones only you can see). This article explains how to use the inspect element tool to try out your changes on a real website.
5. Learn a new tool
UX writers come from many different backgrounds but you could divide us into two groups—tech and non-tech. As a member of the latter category, I was very intimidated by Figma. While it’s useful and increasingly required for UX writers to learn design tools, it can also seem like a very tall order.
However, this too can be tackled in five minutes a day. Figma (and virtually any other tool you want to learn) has tons of tutorials, some made by the company and others created by good folks on YouTube. Figma’s YouTube channel is a great place to begin.
Depending on your learning style, this might be better accomplished in 30 minutes a week than five minutes a day. But you really can learn a large and complicated tool in bite sized chunks.
6. Spend time on social media
Okay, I know you probably already spend more than five minutes a day on social media. But connecting with other UX writers online in an intentional way can be a great way to learn, network, and feel connected to the growing community of UX writers.
Joining groups dedicated to UX writing is a great place to start. The UX Writing Hub has active groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as other social media accounts. You can also find UX writing communities on Slack and other platforms. By checking out what other people are posting and joining in the conversation, you’ll learn more about UX writing and connect with other writers.
Posting questions, resources, tips, and observations is a great way to share what you’re learning and connect with others as well. If you’re going to be browsing Facebook on your lunch break anyway, why not add a little skill-building into the mix?
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or pressed for time, I hope this article gave you some ideas for efficiently integrating UX writing practice into your day.