UX copywriting is so hot right now.
In the last decade, Google searches for terms related to ‘UX copywriting’ have more than quadrupled. What started as a niche profession in Silicon Valley has now infiltrated the world of copywriting and UX design here in the UK. At the time of writing, Spotify, Skyscanner, the BBC, Morgan Stanley and Net-a-Porter all have big-ticket ‘user experience’ vacancies at their London offices.
Clearly, the value and importance of user-focused copywriting is making its mark on digital marketing budgets. But what does UX copywriting look like in practice?
UX Copy, defined
UX copywriting is the art of using language to make branded experiences easier and more enjoyable for users
There are other, higher-falutin’ ways of describing UX copy (‘the use of language to design a conversation between brand and user’), but actually, the meaning of the term is fairly simple. UX copywriting makes digital branded experiences more efficient, by helping readers navigate their way to their (or your) desired outcome. It’s UX design, but with words.
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UX copywriting is not primarily concerned with selling, storytelling or building a brand image (although it can help do all these things.) Instead, it’s focused on getting users where they need to be.
Nothing more, nothing less. Whether copy drives users to a defined point is the key measure of success for a UX copywriter. Perversely, the best UX copy is therefore often invisible to readers.
UX copywriting is 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: all the tiny touches that make a web experience either smooth and fulfilling or shitty and frustrating.
Make no mistake: writing short copy 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. Not an easy balance – and one which requires skill, experience, and an iterative approach.
Poets need not apply
While all web copywriters should find themselves writing UX copy, ‘UX copywriters’ are their own special breed.
That’s because the skills required to be a UX copywriter are different to those of a traditional copywriter.
Working in tandem with solution architects and UX designers, the best UX copywriters are involved in digital projects at the earliest planning and design stages, and then throughout the build, whereas copywriters are typically one of the last to get involved in digital projects.
UX copywriters are adept at online testing. That’s because UX copywriting is intimately concerned with proving the effectiveness of copy, where other copywriters prefer to go by look and feel.
In turn, UX copywriters occupy a different position within brands. Where traditional copywriters work with marketers and brand managers on the commercial side of businesses, UX copywriters must also have close working relationships with those executing digital designs – whether that means product managers, developers and designers.
What’s essential to understand is that UX copywriters are a distinct, specialist entity. Don’t ever call one a technical copywriter, unless you want them to sabotage your site from the inside-out.
Why should I care?
In short, 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.
UX copywriting uses language to make digital experiences easier and therefore more satisfying. User anxiety is reduced; systems are made accessible to a wider range of customers; users are guided towards conversion.
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. How many times have you been confronted with a clunky 404 page? Or been buying a luxury item, and had your shopping experience spoiled at the last moment by an officious or abrupt payment page.
The effect is jarring and the brand comes off badly. UX copywriters know that when it comes to customer experience, the small things really are the big things. That’s something we could all learn from.