Whether it’s 10 years into your career or before you’ve even had your first day at work, getting laid off sucks. The loss of income and the fear of what comes next can be overwhelming and stressful.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
In this article, we’ll look at how the wave of layoffs across tech companies like Twitter, Meta, and Amazon has affected UX writers and what you can do to stay on track with your career.
Why are tech workers getting hit so hard?
Right now, we know that more than 35,000 tech workers across 72 companies have been laid off in November, adding to a total of over 128,000 tech jobs lost worldwide in 2022.
It’s difficult to blame the wave of large-scale layoffs on any one factor. But many of the companies making public statements have cited at least one of the following primary causes:
- A pandemic-induced recruiting boom: when life migrated online and lockdowns drove up demand for tech products and online services, companies hired a huge number of employees, which have become too expensive to retain, now that offline life has picked up again
- Mounting interest rates: tech companies, especially startups, are under huge pressure with banks raising rates and reversing pandemic-era monetary easing to ward off soaring inflation.
- A kerfuffle of economic and political issues: the ongoing war in Ukraine, high fuel costs, supply chain issues, and a decline in personal PC sales have made companies look to job cuts as a way of reducing operating costs.
How have the layoffs impacted UX writers?
It’s hard to find a breakdown of layoffs by department since most news outlets have focused on their general impact on the tech industry.
While layoffs.fyi gives a more worker-level insight, it’s important to note that the layoff lists there are opt-in, so they aren’t reflective of the real numbers. The difference between the layoff count reported in the press and the layoffs.fyi lists can be huge.
Interviewing.io did a great job last month of analyzing the data on layoffs with a breakdown by department. According to their findings, product & design departments across tech companies in the US, which would include UX writers, lost 12% of their staff in 2022.
- UX/UI designers
- Product designers
- Product managers
- UX/UI writers
- Content designers
- Content strategists
- Content developers
- UX researchers
However, product & design wasn’t affected nearly as bad as other departments. According to interviewing.io, the hardest hit were:
- Recruiting, which lost 50% of its staff
- HR (48%)
- Finance (30%)
Even though they’re opt-in, a quick trawl through the lists on layoffs.fyi shows that roles in the above departments are in the majority.
It’s also important to note that it wasn’t just junior staff who have been affected. Many who are now jobless had years of experience, some even over a decade.
The turbulent post-pandemic economy has made a lot of companies shift from a growth model to a more conservative “maintain and survive” approach.
This means that while they tighten their belts to adjust to a reduced customer base by slowing down growth and changing their offerings, they will most likely also impose a hiring freeze, leading newly laid-off workers, especially those at junior level and those requiring a work visa or permit, to face more competition on the job market.
It’s hard to predict just how the UX landscape will shift. Since many businesses will steer away from expansion or product development because of sky-high interest rates, we might see fewer UX personnel assigned to new work.
But this doesn’t mean job opportunities will disappear.
Those laid off can still avail of many opportunities at mid-size and small companies in tech and non-tech areas, such as health care, retail, government, and financial services.
The cost of bad UX writing
UX writing is still a flexible, in-demand skill that’s valuable in just about any industry. And luckily, more and more companies are catching on to the value of investing in good UX.
But if you’re ever feeling doubtful about your contribution to the world, just try imagining any digital product with zero words…
We know that writing goes hand in hand with design—when one falters, the other follows suit, contributing to an overall bad user experience and leaving a dent in the company’s reputation.
For another confidence boost, here are some statistics on bad UX provided by some reputable global companies:
- Research carried out by Toptal shows that 88% of users are less likely to return to a website with bad UX.
Misleading or vague copy, bad design, slow performance—any of these reasons can be a source of frustration for your target audience and an incentive to never return to a product or service.
- According to Kolsky, 13% of users will share their bad experiences with 15 or more people.
That’s a huge chunk of a company’s customer base. Bad UX can very easily tarnish a brand’s reputation.
- PwC found that 32% of customers say they would leave even a favorite brand after just one bad experience.
Fortunately, you as a UX writer have the power to turn a product into a real crowd-pleaser.
- Google found that users are 62% less likely to purchase from a brand because of negative user experience.
People only do business with brands they are comfortable with. That’s why the experience you create with your writing matters.
So what now?
First off, keep in mind that you matter and your work matters. UX experts are the leaders of the digital transformation age and are still changing the digital landscape as we know it.
An important takeaway from all the noise on layoffs is not to take it personally and not to let the news bog you down.
Over the last few months, media coverage has made the tech industry look like an unstable, volatile landscape. But the reality is that cycles of boom and bust are very frequent in the tech industry and we’ve been through them before. In fact, some of the biggest tech companies today, like Amazon, eBay, and Booking.com, have grown from the dot-com bubble burst in the early 00s.
The Marketplace Tech podcast did a great episode on the history of the industry’s ups and downs with Margaret O’Mara of the University of Washington.
So if you’re new to the industry, this is a great time to upskill and join the ranks of recession survivors.
Coping with a layoff
If you’re in the process of getting a job, Andrew Astleford, UX Content Strategist at RingCentral and former UX Writing Academy mentor, wrote a great piece on how to cope with a layoff and prepare for a job hunt as a UX writer.
Many UX writers have already taken to social media to reconnect with their online communities and seek new opportunities:
We’ve also seen some great solidarity from folks in the UX industry offering advice, job opportunities, or even just a sympathetic ear to those laid off. It’s great to see that we’re not alone, even in hard times.
It’s hard to say what the future holds, but for now, despite some setbacks, writers working in tech companies seem to be weathering the storm. Let’s hope for smooth sailing in the days to come.