UX writing is exactly what you may suspect. It is the writing involved in the microcopy of apps, digital products, websites, and any other components that users need to navigate a product. Read more to learn about UX writing and why it is a growing profession.
In a progressively digital world, there has been an influx of people navigating into tech to try and make sense of it. Technology has taken off, and as terms like Web2 and Web3 start coming up more frequently in conversation, it is important to have a basic understanding of the various positions out there. Whether your expertise is computers or houses, having a digital fingerprint is inevitable these days.
UX refers to ‘user experience’, a term used to describe the overall experience a person has when using a product such as a computer application or website. User experience mainly focuses on how easy or pleasing an app or website is to use.
What Is UX Writing?
UX writing is essentially the art of creating the texts that appear all throughout the interface of various digital products. Digital products include websites, mobile apps, and more. When you find yourself on a webpage, a UX writer is most likely responsible for your ability to navigate between tabs and discern where the main menu is as opposed to a comment button.
UX writing involves finding the words for definitions, menus, labels, buttons, chatbots, error messages, or even the instructions to help first-time users maneuver around the webpage or app. These small pieces of writing are collectively called “microcopy.”
An effective UX writer can create a microcopy that is almost intuitive to its users, is easily understood by anyone who comes across the digital product, and still holds onto the brand’s specific voice and tone. This includes writing microcopy that is accessible to people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, and gender identities.
UX writing is a specific subset of UX design where the writers focus on the written parts of the website or app while the designers focus on the design. It may sound like an easy-to-do job, but UX writing involves heavy user research, multiple trials to test a variety of versions of their work, and direct interaction with product teams to find the best way to create a useful copy.
If you have ever come across a “page not found” message that redirects you to the home page or read the encouraging, calming messages on an app like Headspace, you have experienced the power of UX writing. Without it, most people would find digital products difficult to use, not understandable, and an overall negative experience.
UX copywriting is an essential factor in creating a pleasurable and valuable digital experience for any user. Because copywriting and UX writing are separate professions, it is important to note that each holds different requirements and responsibilities.
Using data and insights garnered by user research and testing, UX copywriting involves working with UI designers, marketers, product managers, and content strategists. All of these roles work together to develop a cohesive, user-focused copy for their digital experiences.
Compared to other jobs like content strategy, UX writing is a narrower and more specialized field. Within UX writing, though, you must incorporate UX research, content strategy, and design. Working alongside all of these other positions requires acute knowledge of your digital product and its marketing goals.
Implementation is the main aspect of UX copywriting. This is because if a writer cannot implement and incorporate a content strategy, then it is useless. The writer has to prioritize the user experience just as the writer has to prioritize the marketing strategy and content goals alike. Every piece of text is meant to be necessary to achieve these priorities.
How to Become a UX Writer
In order to break into the UX writing field, you will have to have the appropriate skills, a presentable portfolio, and necessary experience. If you have one and not the others, it is important to hone your skills to find the best UX writing job for yourself.
Firstly, you must have certain skills to acquire a job as a UX writer. Strength in writing, research, and familiarity with digital design programs are what companies are typically searching for when trying to fill a UX writing position.
It is also crucial that you create a portfolio to show off your experience and abilities. It is a central part of applying for a UX writing position, which means that building a simple website to showcase your work is more necessary than not. This shows companies what you are capable of in a centralized, accessible location. Different website builders such as Weebly, Adobe Portfolio, and Wix can be great places to start.
Although it may seem contradictory, a huge part of UX writing and breaching the field is having a substantial amount of experience. Luckily, this does not mean you have to have 3+ years of UX writing under your belt.
Regarding experience, hiring managers will oftentimes ask if you have any experience working in user experience writing directly. If you do not, you can state your experience working as a copywriter, technical writer, or even something like UX design. As long as it relates, it can be applied as experience.
Becoming a UX writer entails a commitment to the practice and, mostly, the ability and desire to learn. You can do this by enrolling in courses for UX writing, which will introduce you to the fundamentals of UX writing and concepts such as usability testing.
From there, you can even write your own copy to display in a potential portfolio. Putting your skills to practice by creating mock websites or apps is also a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the world of UX writing.
Skills Necessary to Become a UX Writer
There are a variety of skills necessary if you are looking to break into UX writing or are interested in what it takes to do so. Although you do not need to be an expert, it is helpful if you have a good amount of experience using the skills necessary for a UX writer job.
The most essential skill is, you guessed it, writing. Being knowledgeable when it comes to grammar, spelling, and concepts such as shades of meaning and tone are essential in UX writing. But unlike what most creative writing jobs entail, UX writing should be clear and concise, giving the user the least amount of difficulty possible when using a digital product.
Another essential skill in UX writing is the ability to research hard and well. You have to be aware of market and user research when it comes to design and your specific digital product. You will have to ask yourself questions like “Does this button make users want to click it or does it turn them away from the site altogether?” or “Does the language used to correct an error by the user sound too condescending or cold?”
User testing, card sorting, and A/B testing are all research techniques that UX writers use when trying to make sure a product is working as intended for its users. If you are all for the writing aspect without considering how much research you will have to put into your work, then UX writing may not be for you.
Although not all UX writers end up using visual design toolkits, if you are familiar with a few then you can potentially boost your credentials for the positions that will expect you to know them. Figma and Sketch are two programs that have free trial periods, which you can use to acquaint yourself and create material for your portfolio.
UX Writing Job Market
UX writing is as new as any job that has to do with enhancing the digital experience for worldwide users. With that comes skyrocketing job growth and a valuable average salary that is worth the work.
On the higher end of experience, a UX writer in the United States can make up to $108,807 as of January 2021. A few design circles consider UX writing as a trending job, calling it a “booming field.” If you expect to get into this field, you will most likely be working at agencies or tech companies.
There is a growing market for content strategists, technical writers, copywriters, and UX writers as the digital world grows vaster and more critical to businesses and lives. When looking at the data from 25 countries, the average salary of a UX designer is $90,600. A junior writer is said to make at least $75,000 in the USA while senior writers can average just under $125,000.
If you are a junior UX writer, it is important to not expect the higher end of the average salary immediately. It is suspected that the salary of an experienced UX designer will reach six figures sooner rather than later.
These numbers do not lie and neither do the millions of people rushing to get their hands-on courses to teach them UX writing. It is an industry that expands throughout the world and can be done remotely.
Although there is no exact training or schooling specified for the newly researched position, a combination of the right skills and mindset can land you a job as a UX writer and lead you to a more than satisfactory salary.
UX Writing vs Other Jobs
There are a few jobs out there that require a similar skillset and experience to what UX writing entails. The overlap is evident, but there are a few differences that can only be found in UX writing.
A few overlapping jobs are content strategy, technical writing, and copywriting. Although they involve some of the same skills, UX writing is more so a part of the design process, unlike the others. Wherever you work has certain expectations that may require this overlap to blur, but the overall distinction between UX writing and these other jobs is clear.
As a content strategist, you are responsible for creating or planning content based on your company’s expectations and needs. Compared to what a UX writer does, content strategy is more involved in the creativity involved with coming up with a plan of action. This plan of action is then passed on to a UX writer where they use the specific guidelines laid out by the content strategist to fulfill the plan.
A technical writer is typically responsible for distilling complex information into understandable and accessible language through items such as instruction manuals, reference guides, and how-to articles.
Both UX writers and technical writers have to translate their end copy so that it is easily understandable, but UX writers rarely have to put together long pieces of writing like manuals. UX writers focus more on the written aspect of a website or app that users directly interact with.
Lastly, copywriters usually work for the marketing team of a company. Copywriting requires a copy for social media posts, ads, or even coming up with a marketing slogan. Similar to UX writers, copywriters maintain the company’s brand voice in their work. Unlike UX writers, though, a copywriter typically focuses more on bringing in customers and spreading awareness for a company.
What UX Writing Looks Like
It may be difficult to understand exactly what a day at work for a UX writer may look like, but it is important to get an accurate idea before diving in yourself. It is sometimes confused with regular creative writing jobs. Since UX writing is essentially the copy a user sees whilst they navigate through any software product, all writing must be specialized.
You will typically get put on a project where you will have to help with developing something like the onboarding process, instruction text, error messages, in-product marketing, contextual help and tooltips, metadata, form field lists and labels, legal notices, settings, or all of them at once.
You have to be on top of the competition to either beat them out or learn from them. You also will be responsible for helping users understand what your digital product can do for them and show them exactly how to do it.
A UX writer’s work must reflect the product’s unique value proposition. This means that not only will you have to fully understand every detail involved with your digital product, but you must also word it in a way that can be digested by someone who has no familiarity with the product.
A day’s work would involve working on a project for a company or brand, finding out the goal of product management and marketing, and then writing to incorporate the overarching guidelines of the strategy decided.
For example, a few tasks that you may be given can involve adhering to brand guidelines for a corporate voice or receiving information about an external communications strategy and needing to translate it effectively through the digital product.
The Importance of UX Writing
You may be wondering the exact importance of a job like UX writing, which is similar to asking questions about what exactly the internet provides. An example of the importance of UX writing can be seen in what happened to the app Path in 2010.
The new app was on the fast track to success and even accrued millions of users because of its sleek design and interesting concept. There was also a substantial amount of media hype attached to the up-and-coming app.
Not even a month later, Path began receiving heavy criticism and users deleted the app soon after they had downloaded it. This is because there was no clear purpose of the app that was explicitly stated to its users. People did not know if it was a social network, a photo-sharing app, or even a virtual diary.
Many attribute its downfall to the ineffective and insufficient UX writing on the app. Due to the nature of it, there was not much indication of how to navigate, use, and explain the app. A clearer proposition could have given Path a better chance at remaining mainstream.
The place that UX writing remains most important is in the onboarding process. For first-time users, UX writing is what guides them through the app, allowing them to explore and figure out what they are getting themselves into efficiently and easily. If they are not able to understand what they are supposed to be doing on the app or website and why, the user will most likely abandon the digital product altogether.
When done well, UX writing can be a key mechanism in generating user loyalty. A UX writer is meant to write a clear journey for a new user while encouraging usage of the digital product through concise, understandable writing.
UX writing is a job that is necessary for enhancing and perfecting the overall online user experience. A good UX writer is able to connect a brand to its audience and vice versa, furthering a company’s progress. Although UX writing is not a simple profession to jump into, once learned, it can be as rewarding as it is fundamental.