The Intersection of Content Design and UX Writing

As I was learning about content design and UX writing , I summarized 10 guiding steps that I found the most valuable. These considerations serve as reminders for my own work and process. 
Content is the user experience. 

The entire form or process is content. The choice of what to ask, the order in which to ask it, how to divide it between webpages... the size of the fields, as well as the words you use–all that is content.

– Ginny Redish

1.

Research first

Prior to writing is preparation
UX writers need to research users' motivations and goals. They should understand what the user is seeking both through the practical use and the emotional appeal of the product (Yifrah, 2017). Before UX writing can occur, content should be well-researched to set the standards of users' needs, circumstances, and familiarity. 
k e y   s t e p s 
a. Determine target audience

b. Research user's internal and external landscapes (Wen, 2020)
  • internal: needs, values, emotions, and expertise
  • external: accessibility, social, and cultural environments, demographics, and context of use
     
c. Develop personas for different scenarios

2.

Follow a style guide

Each organization has their own style guide that outlines the core principles and elements (i.e., logos, color palette, typography, etc.) behind their copy and design. UX writers should be mindful of key design elements and write to maintain the brand's voice and tone within and across products to attribute a clear and memorable identity. 

3.

Consistent voice builds trust

An inconsistent voice may lead to confusion or doubt among users. In cases where there are multiple collaborators involved, or even when there is only one UX writer, maintaining a consistent voice will keep writing cohesive, moving towards a common goal, and build trust between the user and the product.
What is microcopy? 
Microcopy is a piece of text on a product interface that helps guide or inform the user.
Microcopy can include:
  • Onboarding
  • CTA
  • Loading screen
  • Navigation buttons
  • Confirmation messages
  • Error messages
  • Privacy documentation
  • Instructions
  • FAQ
  • Contact us

4.

Adaptive tone increases motivation and desirability

While voice should be consistent, the tone of each piece of microcopy should be adaptive based on the situation. Writing text for a loading screen is different from writing text for an error message or for privacy documentation. Each needs its own consideration of the user's mindset when they encounter the text. Understanding and reassuring the user that they're where they need to be, or that they can get back on the right track, will increase the motivation and desirability to complete actions.

5.

Familiarity brings clarity

Why it's important to do research before writing
Keep writing simple using words your users are familiar with. By constructing a well-defined word bank from your initial research and developing terminology for new and experienced users, you microcopy will be concise and tailored to users' needs and expectations.
Content usually results in some sort of action. The best content knows that it has a purpose and fulfills that purpose. If it doesn't, that content is a waste of space.

– Sarah Richards

6.

Simple labels,
intuitive action

The more familiar your words are to the reader, the faster the reader can understand what they mean. – Sarah Richards
When labels are clear and simple, they may even become invisible to the user. The user's actions then become intuitive as they move through the interface with ease.

7.

Collaboration is expected

The UX writer does not write alone
Writing microcopy involves input (and potentially sign-off) from stakeholders and collaboration with researchers, designers, and developers. Even at the early stages of production, marketing and copywriting teams may be involved to align on the organizations style guide and goals (Marushevska, 2019). Therefore, clear communication, flexibility, and open-mindedness will be essential to maintaining good working relationships.

8.

Testing real users

Developing the best microcopy takes thorough research and testing real users. For example, using A/B testing, the UX writer can learn and compare how different versions of a piece of microcopy effect how the user understands and interacts with the product. It can also quickly determine which words users are familiar with and which are vague and confusing.
Microcopy reduces the alienation between people and machines, and changes the relationship from a robotic functional encounter to a human personal experience.

– Kinneret Yifrah, Microcopy: The Complete Guide

9.

Revision and iteration

After testing, microcopy will be revised based on findings. UX writing is an iterative process of research, writing, collaboration, critique, testing, and rewriting. It requires the continual curiosity to learn, navigate, and meet the evolving needs of users.

10.

Share a conversation

UX writing should be clear, concise, and useful
UX writing should also be intuitive, accessible, and evoke emotion. Using a consistent voice and an empathetic tone, the writing becomes more reliable and genuine. You're able to participate in a conversation where you're helping guide the user to their desired goal and respect their time in the process.
The UX writer is a guide on the user's journey.
r e f e r e n c e s
1. Halvorson, K., & Rach, M. (2012). Content strategy for the web. New Riders.

2. Marushevska, A. (2019, August 30). Building Better Product with UX Writing. Medium. http://blog.prototypr.io/building-better-product-with-ux-writing-775b205806ae.

3. Podmajersky, T. (2019). Strategic writing for UX: Drive engagement, conversion, and retention with every word. O’Reilly Media.

4. Richards, S. (2017). Content design. Content Design London.

5. Silver, A. (2018, July 3). Content design is the user experience and what the deuces is content design? Medium. https://uxdesign.cc/content-design-is-the-user-experience-and-what-the-deuces-is-content-design-2c66d9691525.

6. Spool, J. (2020, November 17). Content and Design Are Inseparable Work Partners. UX Articles by UIE. https://articles.uie.com/content_and_design/.


7. Wen, A. (2020, November 26). The go-to guide for UX writers, copywriters, and content strategists. Medium. https://medium.com/talking-microcopy-writing-ux/go-to-guide-for-ux-writers-copywriters-and-content-strategists-3f216e0a0aa0.

8. Yifrah, K. (2017, November 5). 6 reasons to design a voice and tone for your digital product. Medium. https://uxdesign.cc/6-reasons-to-define-a-voice-and-tone-for-your-digital-product-75d27917f87f.

9. Yifrah, K. (2018, August 2). The ROI of UX writing. Medium. https://blog.prototypr.io/the-roi-of-ux-writing-ae69b4029ec2.

10. Yifrah, K. (2019). Microcopy: The complete guide. Nemala.