What is UX Copy And Why It Concerns You

What is UX Copy And Why It Concerns You

Hands up if your team uses template lorem ipsum text right through the development phase?

If that’s true, don’t worry – you wouldn’t be the first. A lot of designers assume that ‘words’ are marketing’s issue, and that they can add them in at the end of the UX design process. But you should definitely change that.

Copy leads design. If you don’t believe and practice that, your copy is not going to convert as well as it could. Since your ultimate goal is to create experiences that are intuitive (‘user-friendly’ is a bit passé), it’s probably time for a rethink.

Having someone responsible for the wording from the start of the design process is a fantastic way to ensure your design and your wording works together right from the get go. That’s why we’ve put together this careful examination of what UX copy is and how and why you should utilise it for your benefit. 

Now, what is exactly UX copywriting

Now, what is exactly UX copy?

UX copywriting is the art of using language to make branded experiences easier and more enjoyable for users. UX copy aims to move users toward accomplishing their goal (and your goal) in an intuitive way. That’s why a good UX copy is almost invisible to readers, which is kind of ironic. 

UX copywriters are typically focused on the bits of copy no-one notices, sometimes called ‘microcopy’. This includes buttons, menu headers, 404 notices, pop-ups, instructions and page headers. Simply, all the tiny touches that make a web experience either smooth and fulfilling or shitty and frustrating. 

A good UX copy is almost invisible to readers, which is kind of ironic.

But make no mistake: writing short copies of this type is as difficult as writing long paragraphs of body text. For a 2 or 3-word phrase to successfully guide readers, it must be universally understood and consistent with the voice of the brand in question. It’s not an easy balance. It requires skill, experience, and an iterative approach. 

Now, as we all know, our designers weren’t necessarily trained as wordsmiths. And, even if they’re handy in that area they probably don’t have time to take on even more work. Luckily, you can (and you should) always hire a UX copywriter.

Copywriting vs. UX copywriting

Copywriting vs. UX copywriting

Lots of people will tell you that UX copywriting is so different to copywriting that it is inconceivable that we should recognize any similarities. That isn’t true. Both UX writers and traditional copywriters will need an analytical mindset, a good ear for tone of voice and an eye for detail.

Both UX writers and traditional copywriters will need an analytical mindset, a good ear for tone of voice and an eye for detail.

The differences between the two mainly lie in where they sit in the design process, how they fit with the rest of the team and the goal for which they write. And – it’s also worth emphasizing – these differences mean that copywriters can work alone. UX writers absolutely can’t.

UX copywriters should be involved in projects from the earliest planning and design stages. They work with the product team, UX designers and solution architects throughout the whole project. Their job is to identify the context that the user is in and define the next step that they must take in order to reach their chosen goal. It’s fair to say that UX copy talks primarily to the user’s rational mind.

Traditional copywriters, on the other hand, often get involved later in the process when the product is almost finished – although it’d be better if they were involved from the start. They work with marketers and brand managers on the commercial side of business. Their copy focuses on the target persona and their desires and pain points. It wants to present an enticing, valuable solution to the reader. It wants to evoke emotions.

Moving on, let’s explore why UX copy is so important, even if it seems almost invisible. 

Why Small Words Matter

Why Small Words Matter 

To answer this question, maybe first, you should open your favorite app. Or maybe a website you frequently visit. Picture this: what will happen if there are no words on the design even though you feel fine with the flow? You probably feel lost even at the thought of it. The truth is, you wouldn’t know what to do. That’s the use of copywriting in UX design.

If there is no copywriting in UX design, users may completely feel confused. Good UX copy takes the guesswork out of the digital experience by making products accessible to more customers, reducing their anxiety if things look complex, and guiding them towards their goal. It achieves this through short phrases that must be universally understood.

There are many instances where a potential customer might change their mind at the last moment because of a weirdly worded payment page. One misplaced word at a key touchpoint can impact someone’s decision, and UX copywriters know that.

One misplaced word at a key touchpoint can impact someone’s decision, and UX copywriters know that.

Another essential job of UX copywriting is humanizing digital products. Great UX copy doesn’t treat words as purely technical components intended only to describe or direct. It replaces unnecessary technical jargon and complicated phrases with a more conversational and clear approach.

Some of the best UX copy comes in small packages. It’s things like the text on the button in an app. It’s deciding whether it should say “sign me up!” or “subscribe”. It’s writing a good 404 page that will not make the user feel lost, but rather help them get back to where they were heading.

Why should you care for UX copy

Why should you care?

It’s simple. Because your customers do. Sites with a ‘superior’ user experience have been shown to increase visit-to-lead numbers by 400%. 97% of customers say that user experience is the most critical element in the quality of an app, and 90% will stop using one if they find it hard to navigate.

Good UX copywriting takes the guesswork out of digital experiences, both for businesses and users. Brands know their websites, apps and other digital materials are doing everything they can to support customers. Customers know how to achieve their objectives online. Everybody wins.

Finally, UX copywriting helps brands achieve consistency online. 

Here's how to hire a UX copywriter

Here’s how to hire a UX copywriter

If we’ve sold you on the idea of having a UX writer onboard, that’s great. What we haven’t told you is that good UX writers are like northern hairy-nosed wombats or Hispaniolan solenodons. They exist but can be difficult to find.

Your ideal candidate should be analytically minded and have an eye for detail but also be genuinely interested in UX and the design process.

The main problem is there is no clear pathway into the role. UX writing as a discipline is still in a nascent stage. People come into it from different angles. Some are UX designers already. Some are psychology, communications, or human-computer interaction grads. Others hop over from marketing, copywriting, or journalism. The point is, apart from years of experience, there’s no definition in the field for hiring managers to gauge the right profile for a UX copywriter on their team.

Here’s what to look for in potential candidates:

  • Genuine interest in UX and the design process
  • A willingness to work collaboratively 
  • Eye for detail
  • They have to be analytically minded

One last tip. Know what a writer is, and isn’t. Don’t turn to them and expect the words to come fully formed. It’s a craft, it takes time. That’s what you’re paying for. If you want a writer who can churn out 100 words per minute you’re in the content game. And that has a different set of rules.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Can you get by without a UX copywriter, in the strictest sense?

The answer is a resounding – yes, but your product won’t be nearly as good.

With the amount of effort your team puts in, your product deserves to really shine when it comes out the other end of the process. It needs the words and the other aspects of the design to work as one, rather than one being added on at the end, as an afterthought, right before you’re due to launch. A UX copywriter can help you achieve this. That alone has to be worth the investment.


Biljana Martinić

Captain of Red Hair Pirates. Song Sommelier. Dragonologist. Talks to animals and they often talk back. Shyness that is criminally vulgar. Bounty hunter. And a nostalgia consultant.

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