UX Writing for apps and websites – 5 tips to get you started

UX writing, if you don’t know, is the art of crafting User Experience (UX) copy that guides users in a product, helps them interact with it, and perform the tasks they want to perform. It’s one of the ways a product actually communicates with it’s users. In fact it’s the very language of the product itself. And in the age of personalization it can be crucial.

So it is fair to say UX writing is quite important.

We’re going to give you 5 UX writing tips that can help you to manage a UX writing project. But before we start, we’re going to assume that you:

  • Understand the goals and objectives of your product and company
  • Know your audience
  • Have a style guide and brand tone of voice

If you haven’t got those three things sorted out, you should tackle that first.

Picture showing a UX flow - UX writing tips
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Don’t just “do it at the end”

It’s amazing how many times that copy is pushed right to the end of the UX/UI design process for websites and apps.

Your microcopy is the language your website or app uses to communicate with the user. It can make or break your product. So it makes no sense at all to fix your copy right at the end of the UX/UI design process.

UX writers need to be involved in the design process as early as possible. This helps writers communicate more effectively with the user. So you can save the user’s time and prevent frustration. Especially in the app space. 

When a user first installs then opens your app you have 7 seconds to impress them. If your onboarding and “welcome” UX copy is terrible they will likely never use it again.

Actions you can take:

  • Involve UX writers and copywriters as early in the design process as possible

A UX designer's notebook
Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

Keep it simple

Clarity is key in UX writing. 

Many writers, no matter the discipline, tend to like to “flex” a little bit. We love to add a bit of spice to the proceedings. 

This isn’t always great for UX writing. In fact, it can confuse the user. Which is about the worst thing a UX writer can do, especially in a world where time is short and competition for attention is high.

For UX writing projects try to keep your sentences short and avoid any technical jargon. This will keep your copy simple and easy to read. Try to convey what the user needs to know in as few words as possible. Boiling down complex concepts into a single sentence is a great skill and one that can be improved with practice.

A good way to ensure that your copy stays simple is to ask many people to read it, preferably non-writers. They will cut right to the heart of the issue and they might be able to see simpler solutions that you cannot.

Actions you can take:

  • Short sentences
  • Don’t use weird technical jargon – users hate it
  • Tell the user what they need to know. That’s it

A UX journey board in action
Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Be Concise

This is related to clarity, but there are extra constraints in play in UX writing. Especially if you are working on an app.

If you are writing copy for an app it is rare that you will have more than one sentence to communicate with the user. Space restrictions on an app are MUCH tighter than on a website.

But with most people now viewing websites on mobile, maybe it’s time that we started applying these space restrictions across the board (depending on the type of site you are writing for).

UX writing can be a bit counter-intuitive because projects often require you to throw out some rules. But when you’re writing with space restrictions, getting the point across within those restrictions is the most important thing. For example, contractions are usually frowned upon. But in UX writing, they are an essential part of the toolkit.

But there are times where you might not be able to be brief. And it’s here where you should ask yourself what is actually necessary for the user to understand what you are explaining.

You need to be flexible. And be able to edit the same sentence many, many times to cut it down!

Actions you can take:

  • Don’t be afraid to ditch writing “rules”
  • Cut what is unnecessary, but get the message across

UX designers collaborating
Photo by Amélie Mourichon on Unsplash

Write like a human

UX writing can help you to convey your brand’s personality. And that is something you should not be afraid of. So it’s important that you make your UX copy positive and engaging.

However there are a few exceptions to this rule.

For example, picture yourself writing UX copy and messaging for a banking app. A quirky and funny little message telling someone their application for a loan has been denied is just going to annoy people. It’s the sort of copy that might even go viral and bring in a huge number of complaints. As in life, in UX writing there is a time to be funny and a time to be serious.

Actions you can take:

  • ALWAYS write in context
  • Put yourself in the users position
  • Deliver bad news seriously
  • Sometimes “quirkiness” just annoys people, so don’t use it too often

UX design on a website - UX writing tips

Consistency is king

This tip is best described as “pick an approach and stick to it”. With obvious exceptions depending on user context. As mentioned above, if you are delivering bad news, use a suitable tone.

But there is more to consistency than just not annoying some users.

If you are writing for an app or website should you use U.S. English or English? If you use one or the other it’s important to keep using it so it stays consistent.

So if you have brand style rules, it’s important to stick to them once you’ve made that choice.

Actions you can take:

  • Stick with the rules you have set for yourself/your brand

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Do you need help with a UX/UI project? Get in touch with MAQE via [email protected] so we can discuss your needs.