cross roads cover picture ux writing vs copywriting

Why I Switched From Copywriting To UX Writing (And Why You Should Too)

All my life I’ve been a writer.

From teenage poetry and screenplays, to writing marketing content for SaaS startups — I’ve done it all.

If you look back at my writing history, it’s easy to see how I got to where I am today.

I started off wanting to write movies and TV shows. I realized that didn’t pay the bills, and so I started writing content for a SaaS startup.

Then, I started writing the copy for that startup’s product. And it turned out I quite enjoyed it.

I’m now hoping to slowly but surely transition away from copywriting and towards UX writing.

Before we explore that idea further, let’s have a look at the difference between copywriting and UX writing…

Copywriting vs UX writing

ux writing vs copywriting boxing
[Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash]
In a nutshell, a copywriter’s job is to use words to help sell a product.

This can be broken down into different types and methods. You have landing pages, for example, which are a bit of a hard sell. On the flipside, you have blog posts, which don’t often sell much at all.

Ultimately, though, copywriting is there to drive sales, either directly or indirectly.

UX writing is completely different, in that it’s generally aimed at existing customers or users of products.

The aim of UX writing is to support the overall UX design by providing the right words.

This includes copy on buttons, error messages, tooltips, and basically any copy that the user sees as they interact with the product.

Perhaps the easiest way of comparing copywriting and UX writing is this:

Copywriting helps the business. UX writing helps the customers.

To show you just how different these roles are, I thought I’d share an average day in the life of each one…

An average day in the life of a copywriter

My focus has always been on content writing, so that’s what we’ll use as this example.

Generally, my day could be split into two parts: research, and writing.

The research consists of analyzing keywords to figure out which ones I should be targeting, as well as researching relevant details to include in the article itself.

The writing consists of, well, of the writing.

So I’ll sit down and take some time to research the topic I’m writing about.

Once I’ve done enough reading, I’ll start writing the first draft.

Then I edit that draft and send it to the client. If they want any changes making, I do those, and then it’s good to go. Ready to be published.

The tools you need are:

  • A word processor
  • Keyword research tools
  • The internet (or books if you’re old-school)

An average day in the life of a UX writer

sticky notes ux writing vs copywriting
[Photo by David Travis on Unsplash]
I tend to split UX writing into a few different processes. At any time, a UX writer may be juggling these different tasks, or they may be focusing on one at a time.

The first of these tasks is research. This is a little like the research component of copywriting, only it tends to be a little more in-depth.

UX writers research how users talk, analyzing the language they use. They also talk to the product owners or managers to understand the product inside-out.

After the research comes the actual UX writing. This is vastly different to copywriting, in that you generally have very set things you need to be writing.

You also have a lot less space to convey your message, so a lot of the writing is actually just editing.

Finally, unlike blog posts, UX copy is constantly tweaked to be as effective as possible. That means UX writers will also spend time testing different microcopy.

The tools you need are:

  • A word processor
  • Spreadsheets
  • Figma / Sketch / Adobe XD
  • Video calling software
  • Product analytics
  • Github / JIRA / some sort of dev management tool
  • The internet

Could you be a UX writer?

This is a good question, and one I had to ask myself once upon a time.

Below are some of the key attributes a good UX writer has. See how you measure up…

Empathetic

Any UX copy you write is designed to make life easier for the users of the product. You need to be able to empathize with how they feel about the product, and what they are hoping to achieve. You have to put yourself in their shoes.

Technical

UX writing is essentially technical in nature. This isn’t the place to be poetic. Substance over style is the order of the day. Save your poetry for your spare time.

Curious

Curiosity drives a lot of us UX writers. We always like to try new things for our copy, trying to figure out what works best. Experimentation is a big part of UX writing.

Why you should become a UX writer

boat ux writing vs copywriting
[Photo by Francis Nie on Unsplash]
So, perhaps UX writing is right up your street. Before you dive headfirst into a new career, you’re probably wondering why you should…

Well, UX writing is a relatively new field. It’s only now starting to properly find its feet. There are uncharted waters ahead.

That might be concerning to some, but to others like me it represents a fresh green pasture. It represents an opportunity to make a mark on an industry.

The first wave of UX writers are like the pioneers, heading West for a better life. If you wait too long, all the good spots will be gone.

The SaaS and mobile app industries are growing at a staggering rate.

One report estimates that the SaaS industry will reach over $180 billion by 2024.

Another report predicts a market of over $300 billion for mobile apps by 2023.

So yeah, that’s a lot of products that are going to need good UX writers to provide a helping hand.

You have the chance to enter the industry now, and grow with it over the coming years.

What’s next?

Okay, so now that you’re probably jumping at the chance to get started with UX writing, what next?

Well, I’ve put together this list of the 9 best UX writing resources for beginners. That’s probably a great place to start!

Best of luck!