The digital world is considered as one of the most constantly changing industries nowadays. New software appear in the blink of an eye, while new roles are born just as rapidly in product teams and agencies.
User experience design is a great example: it appeared as a new trend years ago, and quickly established its prominent place, where – as far as it seems – it will stay forever. The best UX agencies are now superstars in the industry, who lead the way for others, so they can learn from the best ones.
It is clear that these cool new things are not always buzzwords that slowly become extinct to be replaced by new trends.
The UX writer role is born
A few years ago something new came into existence: the UX writer position. It is not usual to have in-house UX writers in most teams, however, the biggest companies already established this position because they discovered the importance of the benefits it brings.
Just to bring some examples, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Dropbox, Paypal or Booking.com are some of the giants who understand the meaning and relevance of UX writing. If you browse job advertisements, you can see that the UX writer role occurs more often, despite the fact that it still doesn’t get all the attention it deserves.
A real dream would come true if more agencies would realize the importance of this field. Of course, there is a lot one has to understand in this topic, so companies should start dealing with it now, to be able to establish the UX writer position as soon as possible. Before we jump into discussing the role and the desired skills of a UX writer, let’s look at some basic thoughts on UX writing.
What is UX writing?
So, what do we mean by this term? UX writing basically means the act of designing the words the user interacts with on a digital interface, website, in an application or a software. By creating the conversation between people and the machine, UX writing is the bridge that links them. By humanizing the communication, the overall user experience becomes smoother and more engaging, thus making the product more desirable. The texts a UX writer produces should be concise, clear, and useful – that’s a golden rule.
As you may have guessed by now, there are differences between UX writing and other types of writing.
For example, it is not the same as copywriting, which is carried out by marketing teams with the goal of attracting and pleasing the eyes and desires of the customers. In general, copywriting is about advertising or promoting a product.
In contrast, the goal of UX writing is to guide the users and help them while they are using digital products. Communication happens inside the product and not outside of it, as it happens with marketers’ copywriting.
Just as an extra thought, ‘UX copywriting’ as a phrase seems to be just a word-of-mouth thing – it should be UX writing or copywriting, regardless of the number of people who talk about UX copywriting. To understand the differences, take a look at this picture explaining why UX writing is not the same as copywriting:
So who is a UX writer?
Okay, we have seen that UX writing is really important in product design, but then the question comes: Who will create it? Well, surprise: The UX writer.
A UX writer is a person who is responsible for the communication in digital products: they guide the users through the whole interface. “They can rewrite a screen but they can also define a complete flow like a product designer needs to” explained Yuval Kestcher in his interview.
As we can see, a UX writer needs to have a global understanding of the whole product, its design and development processes, too. Having this knowledge the UX writer needs to make the digital conversation based on the needs of the target audience, the voice and tone, and all the data that comes from preliminary research which supports their work. In this sense, they have to take their artistic vein for writing away while crafting words for UX purposes.
And who can be a UX writer? If we think a bit more of how user experience design came into existence, and what stories UX designers and UX researchers can tell you about their ways of becoming a UXer, we can surely guess that there will most probably be a lot of transformations from writers, UX designers and researchers, or any other roles to UX writers. But, of course, there are some traits that are good to have if you are about to choose this career path.
What should a UX writer be like?
Like every professional, a UX writer needs to have a specific skill set to craft great work. There are some traits you should have if you want to become a good UX writer. In the following section, you can look at the ones I consider to be the most crucial.
Team player skills
The most important thing to mention might be that a UX writer should be a real team player. This field is a very collaborative one, there are a lot of meetings with developers and designers or other professionals, so it’s good to be familiar with agile methods. For us at UX studio this not a new thing. We always work in teams, but not only when we are working on projects, we even set our company objectives together.
Another one of the most relevant skills might not be that surprising, and also could have been the first to be mentioned: writing skills. Ta-da! Yes, I know how obvious it sounds, but it’s not that simple as it seems. To be able to make decisions on the exact words you choose, you need to be extremely good at writing, or even better.
You also need to be able to prove why your decision is the best and explain your reasons if necessary. This is why great communication skills are also crucial. So, in general, you have to be excellent with words.
If you think about it, it’s obvious that a UX writer should have design skills. Copy is part of the design, so the two fields shouldn’t be divided. First of all, if you ever want to test your copy, it’s useful to be able to use prototyping tools, so you don’t have to ask someone else to help you out. You design the words, you test if they work or not.
Secondly, when designing something, you want the whole thing to come alive. Just like UX writing, UX storytelling is something very human that can be found all over product designs. The act of guiding the user through the product requires the ability to tell the whole story while adjusting to the design itself.
Of course it is also necessary to have a huge amount of empathy, that helps you create better experiences. Understanding the users’ problems as much as possible will help you give them what they need. And you can do it words, too, not only with visuals.
On the same train of thought, a UX writer should be familiar with some research and testing methods. Preliminary research before crafting the words and then testing the created copy require the knowledge of different methods if you want to do these tasks on your own.
We can now clearly see that a UX writer needs to be familiar with many topics. Also, to have an overview of everything that is going on in a team, it’s necessary to be a strategic thinker. Being aware of, and actually taking part in creating or defining a brand strategy, can be a task for the UX writer, as it has many aspects related to writing anyway.
So what is the role of a UX writer at an agency?
Well, to be honest, this is a hard question to answer, since this thing is still in its infancy. We know who a UX writer is and we know what a UX writer does, but we haven’t seen so much of UX writers at agencies. A lot of companies are hiring UX writers – but they are not agencies, right?
This tendency may change soon, in my point of view. Agencies have different types of professionals, lots of kinds of creative minds and many fields can meet in one place, where innovative products come to existence from almost nothing.
So the question “what is the role of the UX writer at an agency” can be answered with this: To create something amazing. Sounds a bit shallow, right?
But the thing is, UX writers are multifunctional creatures because of their multi-skilled nature and UX writing can fairly be defined as a superpower! At an agency they might be the ones who know about everything and able to have an understanding of all processes.
A UX writer can be someone who has a comprehensive understanding of the products they work on, and because of this, they are able to provide useful ideas for people at other positions, but because of the same thing, they can also gather many ideas for their own work. In the typical agency model, where great minds meet and great things are born, a UX writer might be the meeting point of all professionals.
A more concrete practice, and probably the most typical situation, can be the case when UX designers, UX researchers, and UX writers work in a small separate team on a product. They work closely together throughout the whole project, assisting each other and ideating all the time. It’s quite the same team setup as the one we have at UX studio: We have different roles, but we work extremely closely together.
It is still okay not to have the designated position of a UX writer, as these tasks are usually done by UX designers, you know, that multi-skilled type. ?
The future is in the UX writers’ hands
The future lies in writing and communication, and when it meets the digital world, UX writers will be more and more important and recurrent. Just think about voice enabled design or voice navigation. We know that many companies have recognized the importance of this, and we will most probably see more agencies hire people for this relatively new position.
Big companies must know something, right? Well, this might sound a bit like a cliché, but hey, they really know what’s best for their business. I’m sure in a few years UX writing will be just as common as UX design, while who knows what will be the next newborn position at companies. But anyway, it is by now obvious that UX writing is not just a buzzword.