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Whether you’re the sole UX writer at your company or one of a hundred, collaborating with designers will be a big part of your work. Your team may want to know how they can become better writers themselves; or, maybe they need to be convinced that UX writing is valuable at all.
Should UX designers write?
Like so many things in content design, the answer is “It depends.”
The benefits of having a dedicated UX Writer are pretty clear. Having someone on the team who can devote time and resources to the overall content design is a huge plus. Someone needs to act as the source of truth when it comes to vocabulary and voice and all the other fun things involved in writing.
But this doesn’t mean that designers shouldn’t learn the basics, too. After all, we’re always saying that writing is a niche of design.
If UX Designers have a good grasp on content (its importance and its basic principles), collaboration will be smoother, and the design will likely have a better hierarchy from the start.
Provide good resources
You can’t be everywhere at once. Chances are, some lines of copy won’t go through your hands before it makes it to production. And that’s okay, if the right resources are set up.
Writing copy can seem like a mysterious process for those who aren’t directly involved. This article takes designers through the basic principles and best practices of writing. Use it as a jumping-off point to start the conversation around copy.
Content design systems
Your company likely has a design system that shows which components to use and when; what colors and fonts are appropriate to use; and best practices for creating new items.
A content design system follows the same principles. Creating an accessible, searchable document that contains guidelines on writing error messages, headers, and more can help get your designers 90% of the way on their own.
Style guides and design systems are often used synonymously, but in most cases, style guides refer to wider guidelines. Does the company use title case or sentence case? When should exclamation points be used? Is British or American English used for spelling?
Just like the design system, a style guide can act as a reference for designers to find out standard practices without pinging you multiple times a day.
Good copy is often easy to recognize, but how can you show what you’re looking for? Give your designers examples of great copy and, conversely, examples that are not so great. Designers will be more confident in what they produce if they know what you’re looking for.
If a designer wants to meet to discuss copy, first of all: jump up and down for joy. They care! Making yourself available to your team is vital to building healthy trust and collaboration. When you set meetings, be sure that you’re looking at early designs so that you can discuss larger content issues rather than just minor fixes.
This also means making yourself available for smaller things. No, it’s not your job to write a blog post or help your coworker draft an email. But if you’re willing to help out with non-work related problems, you’re more likely to be at the table when central projects get started.
Don’t gate keep
I can hear the panic already: “But what about job security!?”
Look. Teaching designers the basics of writing isn’t going to put your job at risk. Actually, the opposite is more likely—you’ll be showing the value you can bring to the process. Sharing your knowledge will help them understand what it is you can do, and should inspire them to work on this element of design themselves.
Set up some workshops for some hands-on practice. Let the designers fix an awful error message, or craft a better toast. It’s fun for the team to share their solutions with one another, and tends to be more useful than just providing a link to the resources mentioned above.
Don’t be afraid to practice with things unrelated to your product. For my team, we worked on writing for a fictional dating app. It added an element of fun and freshness to what we typically work on, and was an easy way to show how decisions like word choice, length, and tone can impact the copy.
Share your process
Many writers like to write alone. I’m no exception. Sometimes, though, it pays to work together in real time. Instead of hiding away to “do your magic” and reappearing with the perfect solution, share your screen or book a conference room with the designers and find the answer together.
It’s okay if you need time alone to research or tinker around; even if you’re working alone, though, you can share your process afterwards so that your designers know how you came to your conclusions.
Yes, chances are you can do it better. But between the choice of perfectly writing a piece of copy alone, or letting a designer get 80% there (and gain confidence and excitement about UX writing), I’ll always go for the second.
Of course you should provide feedback and direction, but let the excitement grow organically. And chances are you’ll learn a lot from your designers, too.