Getting into debt is easy. Getting out is hard.
Usually, debt happens for one of two very different reasons. Either things are great and you don’t spend enough time pondering your bold decisions or things aren’t great at all and you simply don’t have many choices available to you. One thing is for certain, though. No matter the reason for racking up debt, you will eventually be faced with the consequences of your actions.
What you may not realize is that this very same concept applies to UX writing content and unfortunately, there aren’t many product managers who warn their stakeholders of this. Imagine, for example, a bootstrap start-up. Funds are tight, so the decision is made to forgo quality UX Writing.
In the short term, this works.
Money is saved, the product is built and they’re off the ground. In the long term, however, the cost of that decision will far outweigh the benefits.
All it takes are some confusing instructions, unclear error messages, or simply a brand voice that isn’t consistent and the entire experience can be ruined for the end user.
Now that company will be faced with increased customer support requests, lower conversion rates, and ultimately users who aren’t going to be out there spreading the good word (not sure why that’s a bad thing? Definitely check out our other post about PLG).
What exactly is UX writing content debt?
Simply put, UX writing debt is a term used to describe the accumulation of poor quality or outdated content in a digital product’s user interface (UI).
This occurs when a company ignores the importance of creating high-quality UX writing, either from the outset or by not prioritizing it as the product grows.
Over time, if the UX writing is not maintained, it can become inconsistent, confusing, or worse yet, completely irrelevant.
As the debt grows, users will begin to struggle to complete tasks, frustration will become the subject of product reviews, and ultimately product abandonment will be a real issue.
Also, much like a financial debt, the larger your content debt grows the longer and more arduous the journey back will be.
The good news? This fate can be avoided! By investing in creating and maintaining high-quality UX writing, product managers can ensure a happier outcome for all involved.
What factors cause the debt to grow?
- Inconsistent tone: If a product has multiple writers or has not established a consistent tone, it can lead to a confusing or jarring experience for users. The use of different words or phrasing can cause users to doubt the authenticity of the product, leading to distrust and a lack of engagement.
- Outdated content: Products need to be updated regularly to ensure that the content is relevant and up to date. Outdated content can lead to confusion and frustration for users who may be misled or unable to find the information they need.
- Poorly written instructions: Instructions that are unclear or poorly written can lead to frustration and confusion. Users may struggle to complete tasks, misunderstand the product’s features, or become discouraged from using the product altogether.
- Vague error messages: Error messages that are unclear or unhelpful can leave users unsure of how to resolve the issue. This can lead to frustration and result in negative user experiences, leading to lower engagement and potentially lost customers.
- Lack of accessibility: When a product does not consider accessibility in its UX writing, it can make it difficult for users with disabilities to use the product. This can lead to frustration and exclusion, limiting the product’s potential audience and hurting the company’s reputation.
But, how does UX writing debt occur in the first place?
- Lack of prioritization: In some cases, UX writing is not seen as a priority or may be overlooked during the product development process. This can result in subpar UX writing or even none at all from the very beginning.
- Inadequate resources: Companies may not invest enough resources, such as time or budget, into creating and maintaining quality UX writing. This can lead to shortcuts being taken, outdated content being used, or errors being overlooked.
- Poor collaboration: When product teams are not communicating or collaborating effectively, it can lead to inconsistencies in the UX writing. This can result in content that does not align with the product’s vision or user needs.
- Lack of attention to detail: In some cases, UX writing may be seen as a minor detail that is not given enough attention. However, the impact of UX writing on the user experience can be significant, and overlooking details can lead to negative consequences.
- Limited UX writing expertise: Not all product teams may have UX writing experts on staff, leading to subpar or inconsistent UX writing. Investing in UX writing expertise can help ensure high-quality content that aligns with the product’s vision and user needs.
Overall, UX writing debt most often occurs when companies do not recognize the value of quality UX writing and therefore do not prioritize it.
Ok, how do I know if I have UX writing debt?
You’ll want to conduct a content audit in order to identify your specific areas of UX writing debt. With a more complete picture of the situation, you’ll be able to determine which of the existing content needs revision, and where in the product you will need to start from scratch creating new content.
User research and metrics like conversion rates, and support requests will also tell the story of your UX writing debt. By proactively analyzing all of this, you can spot the warning signs of poor UX writing and take steps to address it.
Here’s a few tips on how to spot ux writing debt:
- Review existing content: Take a close look at the UX writing in your product and assess its quality. Look for inconsistencies, outdated content, unclear instructions, and any other issues that could lead to a negative user experience.
- Conduct user research: Talk to your users and gather feedback on their experience with the product. Ask them about the clarity of the instructions, the tone of the content, and any other issues they may have encountered.
- Analyze metrics: Look at metrics such as user engagement, conversion rates, and customer support requests. If these metrics are low or declining, it could be a sign of UX writing debt.
By identifying and addressing UX writing debt early on, you can improve the user experience, increase engagement, boost customer satisfaction, and hopefully avoid the dreaded negative review.
Alright, I’ve found the debt. How do I fix it?
First and foremost, in order to address UX writing debt, it’s important to commit to prioritizing your content.
Here are some tips on how to develop a strategy to address UX writing debt:
- Promote UX writing in your company: By promoting UX writing in your company and highlighting its importance, you can help prevent and address UX writing debt and ensure that content is a valued and integral part of the user experience.
- Prioritize content: Identify which parts of the product have the highest impact on the user experience and focus on improving those areas.
- Revise existing content: Update outdated or unclear content and ensure that the tone and voice are consistent throughout the product.
- Create new content: Develop new content that aligns with the product’s vision and user needs, and ensure that it is high-quality and consistent.
So all this was to say…
UX writing debt is a serious issue and when it grows, both users and the business stand to lose. By developing a plan to proactively identify and address UX writing debt, a business can make critical changes to its copy before it’s too late. Following the tips and strategies I’ve outlined here, will help you to ensure that the UX writing in your digital product is not only clear and consistent but also valuable and impactful.
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