5 top skills you need to thrive as a UX writer in 2022

5 top skills you need to thrive as a UX writer in 2022

7 minute read

5 top skills you need to thrive as a UX writer in 2022

7 minute read

5 top skills you need to thrive as a UX writer in 2022

Afoma Umesi

GatherContent Contributor, Writer

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As UX writing roles skyrocket, there is a growing curiosity about what UX writing is, what UX writers do, and how their jobs differ from other content-related roles such as content strategists, for example.

Although both roles work within the same ecosystem, the jobs of a UX writer versus content strategist are far from the same. Let’s look into what each role entails and what you need to succeed as a UX writer.

What is UX Writing?

UX stands for user experience. As the term implies, user experience refers to the way an individual (or user) interacts with (or experiences) a product, service, interface, or system. Is the product hard to figure out or intuitive to navigate? That’s user experience.

Think about the words that welcome you when you open a downloaded app for the first time or the error messages you receive while tinkering with your favorite software. UX writers did that.

Slack error message UX writer
This Slack error message is an example of the work UX writers do.

Why is UX Writing So Important in 2022?

In 2021, there were 15,000 SaaS companies in the United States alone. All of these SaaS companies with digital products need accessible, clear language that helps users understand and benefit from their product.

It is responsible for the messaging throughout a digital product. It walks users through setting up their account, logging in, using the product, and handling error messages, among other things.

Here are two reasons why effective UX writing is key:

1. It builds a connection with users

Excellent UX writing should consistently align with your brand tone of voice and empower users to get the best out of your product. When UX writing ticks both of these boxes, users can’t help but enjoy using your product. It goes from basic software to a trustworthy side-kick, helping them reach their goals.

2. It drives sales and enhances customer retention

If using your product elicits a headache because customers have to read long-winded explanations and clunky error messages, they’ll jump ship the first chance they get. UX writing complements a well-designed product, creating a seamless user experience and moving users through touchpoints. This makes it easier for them to commit to your product long-term.

UX Writer vs. Content Strategist

Well, how do content strategists come into the mix? They often work with UX writers — that’s how.

A content strategist helps brands and companies develop a strategy for planning and managing content production.

Usually, the job description includes performing keyword research, creating content briefs, and reviewing produced content to ensure it meets all the requirements. Content strategists may work to develop a content style guide and work with content writers to achieve the company’s content goals.

As you can see, content strategy is quite different from the role of a UX writer. Granted, the UX writer works within the content strategist’s plans or under their guidance. But, both professionals focus on different aspects of the content journey.

Questions a UX Writer Might Ask

When crafting UX content, a UX writer may ask themselves the following questions about aligning their copy to match the UI (user interface) and benefit the end-user:

  1. What does the user hope to accomplish with this product?
  2. How can I provide helpful guidance every step of the way?
  3. Is this the clearest and most concise way of conveying my message?
  4. Does my copy match the brand voice and tone? Is it empathetic, or does it blame the user?
  5. Will the user understand this message even if English is not their first language?
  6. How well will my text/copy flow with the UI design?

Pondering over these and other user-centered questions will help create UX writing that hits the mark and make the UX writer’s job easier.

Questions a Content Strategist Might Ask

With content strategy, the writer's focus is split between serving customers and helping the company reach its goals. Every content strategist should ask themselves:

  1. What is our main goal with content creation or copywriting?
  2. How do we intend to beat competitor content?
  3. Which major content formats and channels do we plan to use?
  4. Who is our target audience?
  5. How do we plan to solve their pain points?
  6. How will we manage content production workflows?

You’ll see that content strategists work to provide actionable content (whether in written, audio, or video format) while driving sales or reaching other business goals.

3 Major Differences between UX Writing and UX Copywriting

Since UX writing and content strategy are different, how about UX writing and UX copywriting?

Many people generally lump writing and copywriting together, but while both jobs involve making articulating ideas into words, phrases, and sentences, they’re not the same. This also applies in the world of UX. Many even argue that there’s no such thing as UX copywriting.

UX writing, as explained before, is writing the copy that guides users as they use a product, system, or application. Copywriting is writing copy for websites, advertising, or other marketing purposes.

UX copywriting? It’s a mishmash of words that are opposite to each other — not a real thing. If you’re “copywriting,” it’s technically not UX writing.

However, we can compare UX writing and copywriting (which is a real thing) using the table below:

UX v Copywriting table
Comparing UX writing and copywriting

5 Key Skills You Need to Succeed as a UX Writer

If you’re considering breaking into the field of UX writing, you’ll need to sharpen certain skills. Even if you’ve been a content writer or copywriting for a while, UX writing is not exactly the same.

Here are some must-have skills to succeed as a UX writer:

UX Writing Skills

Akin to copywriting, UX writing demands clear, concise writing that is easy to understand. Everyone who’s ever been confused while deploying a product or application knows how frustrating it can be. As a UX writer, you’ll also need to infuse your writing with the company’s brand voice and the appropriate tone.

Here’s an example from Spotify:

Spotify’s error message ux writer
Spotify’s error message is direct, easy to understand, but also empathetic and helpful. (Source.)

Understanding of User Research and UX design

Many UX experts agree that UX writers need an understanding of user research fundamentals and the UX design process. According to Backpack Interactive UX Research Lead, Monica Sherwood, it is crucial for UX writers to understand User Experience design overall. “Because a UX writer creates the instructional text and copy that guide a user’s experience, they first need to understand an ideal user flow through an interface. This allows the writer to construct language that provides intuitive guidance through a user flow, using copy that accompanies that product’s tone and use case(s).”

Empathy

Empathy allows you to imagine that you’re the user navigating a product for the first time. What feels “right” with regards to button placements and general flow? Which colors instinctively signify a successful request? How would you like to be notified of an error? Empathy allows UX writers to provide support and clarity with every message while remaining showing the user what to do next.

Curiosity

Curiosity fuels creativity. UX writers should be curious about their product, how it works, and what customers need as well as consistently find ways to make things better. UX writing is hardly ever one and done. You’ll need patience and a deep well of creativity to keep trying new things until the product sings.

Team Work

UX writers do not work in a bubble. Most UX writers work with a design team including product designers, product managers, UX researchers, and content strategists among others. Having a deep understanding of content goals, how your text works with design, and what your audience needs from the product will go a long way. So, use the team at your disposal.

3 Valuable Tips From UX Writers

UX writing is not just writing. It requires an impressive set of skills and some UX research experience. What else do you need to make a career in UX writing? We asked a few UX experts for their tips.

Keep It Short

Marc Bromhall, a UX writer at StorageBuddy believes that it is most important to “prioritize brevity over verbosity.” Even when you think the copy you've written is short and concise, Bromhall recommends that you “critically evaluate further and see if you can shave off some more words.”

Be careful, though, that “short” doesn’t become the enemy of “useful.” See how the example below showcases a combination of “clear, concise, and useful.”

Google microcopy example  UX writer
Notice how much better the last version is compared to the original. (Source)

Use Everyday Language

If you’re unsure how to be “clear,” use your target audience’s everyday language. Think, Netflix’s classic welcome back for those with multiple profiles, “Who’s Watching?”

Netflix Who's watching page - UX writer
“Who’s watching" suits Netflix’s diverse audience.

Certified UX writer Daree Allen Nieves believes that using recognizable (and accessible) language helps users feel understood. She recommends doing some social listening on social media platforms to know your audience better.

Make Your Copy Encouraging

Monica Sherwood mentions that while clarity is key, you get bonus points for being helpful and encouraging to your user. It depends on your industry, but everyone appreciates a little pat on the back after completing a task successfully. That’s what makes Gmail’s inbox zero message delightful.

Gmail inbox zero page - ux writer
Doesn’t this make you want to breathe a sigh of relief? (Source)

Collaborate for UX Writing on GatherContent

GatherContent is an all-in-one cloud-based Content Operations Platform that allows you to plan, write, edit, and share content with teammates.

UX writing requires even more collaboration than many kinds of writing. With GatherContent’s shareable link feature, you can get feedback from others outside your account — whether or not they have a GatherContent account.

When you share links, you decide how much access to allow — whether they can edit, view, comment, or leave a simple thumbs up. Watch this feature in action here.

What are you waiting for? Sign up for a GatherContent free trial.

As UX writing roles skyrocket, there is a growing curiosity about what UX writing is, what UX writers do, and how their jobs differ from other content-related roles such as content strategists, for example.

Although both roles work within the same ecosystem, the jobs of a UX writer versus content strategist are far from the same. Let’s look into what each role entails and what you need to succeed as a UX writer.

What is UX Writing?

UX stands for user experience. As the term implies, user experience refers to the way an individual (or user) interacts with (or experiences) a product, service, interface, or system. Is the product hard to figure out or intuitive to navigate? That’s user experience.

Think about the words that welcome you when you open a downloaded app for the first time or the error messages you receive while tinkering with your favorite software. UX writers did that.

Slack error message UX writer
This Slack error message is an example of the work UX writers do.

Why is UX Writing So Important in 2022?

In 2021, there were 15,000 SaaS companies in the United States alone. All of these SaaS companies with digital products need accessible, clear language that helps users understand and benefit from their product.

It is responsible for the messaging throughout a digital product. It walks users through setting up their account, logging in, using the product, and handling error messages, among other things.

Here are two reasons why effective UX writing is key:

1. It builds a connection with users

Excellent UX writing should consistently align with your brand tone of voice and empower users to get the best out of your product. When UX writing ticks both of these boxes, users can’t help but enjoy using your product. It goes from basic software to a trustworthy side-kick, helping them reach their goals.

2. It drives sales and enhances customer retention

If using your product elicits a headache because customers have to read long-winded explanations and clunky error messages, they’ll jump ship the first chance they get. UX writing complements a well-designed product, creating a seamless user experience and moving users through touchpoints. This makes it easier for them to commit to your product long-term.

UX Writer vs. Content Strategist

Well, how do content strategists come into the mix? They often work with UX writers — that’s how.

A content strategist helps brands and companies develop a strategy for planning and managing content production.

Usually, the job description includes performing keyword research, creating content briefs, and reviewing produced content to ensure it meets all the requirements. Content strategists may work to develop a content style guide and work with content writers to achieve the company’s content goals.

As you can see, content strategy is quite different from the role of a UX writer. Granted, the UX writer works within the content strategist’s plans or under their guidance. But, both professionals focus on different aspects of the content journey.

Questions a UX Writer Might Ask

When crafting UX content, a UX writer may ask themselves the following questions about aligning their copy to match the UI (user interface) and benefit the end-user:

  1. What does the user hope to accomplish with this product?
  2. How can I provide helpful guidance every step of the way?
  3. Is this the clearest and most concise way of conveying my message?
  4. Does my copy match the brand voice and tone? Is it empathetic, or does it blame the user?
  5. Will the user understand this message even if English is not their first language?
  6. How well will my text/copy flow with the UI design?

Pondering over these and other user-centered questions will help create UX writing that hits the mark and make the UX writer’s job easier.

Questions a Content Strategist Might Ask

With content strategy, the writer's focus is split between serving customers and helping the company reach its goals. Every content strategist should ask themselves:

  1. What is our main goal with content creation or copywriting?
  2. How do we intend to beat competitor content?
  3. Which major content formats and channels do we plan to use?
  4. Who is our target audience?
  5. How do we plan to solve their pain points?
  6. How will we manage content production workflows?

You’ll see that content strategists work to provide actionable content (whether in written, audio, or video format) while driving sales or reaching other business goals.

3 Major Differences between UX Writing and UX Copywriting

Since UX writing and content strategy are different, how about UX writing and UX copywriting?

Many people generally lump writing and copywriting together, but while both jobs involve making articulating ideas into words, phrases, and sentences, they’re not the same. This also applies in the world of UX. Many even argue that there’s no such thing as UX copywriting.

UX writing, as explained before, is writing the copy that guides users as they use a product, system, or application. Copywriting is writing copy for websites, advertising, or other marketing purposes.

UX copywriting? It’s a mishmash of words that are opposite to each other — not a real thing. If you’re “copywriting,” it’s technically not UX writing.

However, we can compare UX writing and copywriting (which is a real thing) using the table below:

UX v Copywriting table
Comparing UX writing and copywriting

5 Key Skills You Need to Succeed as a UX Writer

If you’re considering breaking into the field of UX writing, you’ll need to sharpen certain skills. Even if you’ve been a content writer or copywriting for a while, UX writing is not exactly the same.

Here are some must-have skills to succeed as a UX writer:

UX Writing Skills

Akin to copywriting, UX writing demands clear, concise writing that is easy to understand. Everyone who’s ever been confused while deploying a product or application knows how frustrating it can be. As a UX writer, you’ll also need to infuse your writing with the company’s brand voice and the appropriate tone.

Here’s an example from Spotify:

Spotify’s error message ux writer
Spotify’s error message is direct, easy to understand, but also empathetic and helpful. (Source.)

Understanding of User Research and UX design

Many UX experts agree that UX writers need an understanding of user research fundamentals and the UX design process. According to Backpack Interactive UX Research Lead, Monica Sherwood, it is crucial for UX writers to understand User Experience design overall. “Because a UX writer creates the instructional text and copy that guide a user’s experience, they first need to understand an ideal user flow through an interface. This allows the writer to construct language that provides intuitive guidance through a user flow, using copy that accompanies that product’s tone and use case(s).”

Empathy

Empathy allows you to imagine that you’re the user navigating a product for the first time. What feels “right” with regards to button placements and general flow? Which colors instinctively signify a successful request? How would you like to be notified of an error? Empathy allows UX writers to provide support and clarity with every message while remaining showing the user what to do next.

Curiosity

Curiosity fuels creativity. UX writers should be curious about their product, how it works, and what customers need as well as consistently find ways to make things better. UX writing is hardly ever one and done. You’ll need patience and a deep well of creativity to keep trying new things until the product sings.

Team Work

UX writers do not work in a bubble. Most UX writers work with a design team including product designers, product managers, UX researchers, and content strategists among others. Having a deep understanding of content goals, how your text works with design, and what your audience needs from the product will go a long way. So, use the team at your disposal.

3 Valuable Tips From UX Writers

UX writing is not just writing. It requires an impressive set of skills and some UX research experience. What else do you need to make a career in UX writing? We asked a few UX experts for their tips.

Keep It Short

Marc Bromhall, a UX writer at StorageBuddy believes that it is most important to “prioritize brevity over verbosity.” Even when you think the copy you've written is short and concise, Bromhall recommends that you “critically evaluate further and see if you can shave off some more words.”

Be careful, though, that “short” doesn’t become the enemy of “useful.” See how the example below showcases a combination of “clear, concise, and useful.”

Google microcopy example  UX writer
Notice how much better the last version is compared to the original. (Source)

Use Everyday Language

If you’re unsure how to be “clear,” use your target audience’s everyday language. Think, Netflix’s classic welcome back for those with multiple profiles, “Who’s Watching?”

Netflix Who's watching page - UX writer
“Who’s watching" suits Netflix’s diverse audience.

Certified UX writer Daree Allen Nieves believes that using recognizable (and accessible) language helps users feel understood. She recommends doing some social listening on social media platforms to know your audience better.

Make Your Copy Encouraging

Monica Sherwood mentions that while clarity is key, you get bonus points for being helpful and encouraging to your user. It depends on your industry, but everyone appreciates a little pat on the back after completing a task successfully. That’s what makes Gmail’s inbox zero message delightful.

Gmail inbox zero page - ux writer
Doesn’t this make you want to breathe a sigh of relief? (Source)

Collaborate for UX Writing on GatherContent

GatherContent is an all-in-one cloud-based Content Operations Platform that allows you to plan, write, edit, and share content with teammates.

UX writing requires even more collaboration than many kinds of writing. With GatherContent’s shareable link feature, you can get feedback from others outside your account — whether or not they have a GatherContent account.

When you share links, you decide how much access to allow — whether they can edit, view, comment, or leave a simple thumbs up. Watch this feature in action here.

What are you waiting for? Sign up for a GatherContent free trial.

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