Writing for the user experience (UX) differs significantly from content writing. With content writing, you’re writing to be read whereas with UX writing, you’re writing for users. Great writing is important for both content and UX writing, and both forms are all about delivering a seamless experience for users. So, what’s the difference?
For starters, unlike content writing, copy written for the user experience isn’t intended to excite, amaze or entertain. Sure, it’s informative, but it’s also brief and unobtrusive. Often so brief and so unobtrusive that users don’t even notice it’s there.
With content writing, the aim is to create a great experience with your words. And, depending on the subject matter and audience, you can be as poetic and colourful with your language as you like. But that isn’t the case at all with UX writing. It’s short and straight to the point. If UX writing was a person, chances are you wouldn’t like them very much at all. Quite unlike content writing which is a personalised experience intended just for you.
UX writing is all about simplicity
Good UX writing doesn’t entail long, flowing sentences, it’s all about keeping things as simple as possible. Regardless of how technical and sophisticated a product is, clear and concise language is what’s required. Also, the fewer words the better, so remove words that don’t need to be there. Be as explicit and straight to the point as you can, don’t use ‘big’ words in place of ‘small’ words and don’t opt for words just because they sound or look good.
By keeping your copy simple you’re empowered to make each sentence serve a purpose. That means there’s no clutter, no superfluous words or phrases that could detract from your message or make users lose interest. Writing for the knowledge level of your users will also help to keep your message on track and your users interested.
Keep it consistent
To keep users on track, consistency is key. That means the terminology you use should be the same right across your product. To create an ongoing dialogue with users, one which makes them want to return, consistency in terms of voice, language and tone is vital. For example, keep the message consistent by asking users to, for example, ‘Reserve a …’ across all pages rather than changing it to ‘Book a …’ in some instances. This helps to avoid confusion, keeps the message on track, and provides a consistent experience for the user.
Keep FAQs in mind when writing descriptions
Anticipating the questions your users may ask enables you to answer these questions within your copy. Naturally, you don’t want to give lengthy descriptions or instructions — you still need to keep your copy concise and to the point — but by thinking about potential questions your users may have, you can answer these questions for them in the copy.
Test your copy by having someone with little knowledge of the product read through it. If their questions aren’t answered in your copy, it needs work. You should also bounce your copy off your colleagues to ensure it’s readable. If they find it confusing, what chance does someone who doesn’t know your product have of understanding it? Rework it to enhance readability.
Create an intimate experience for the user
Writing to create an intimate, personal experience for users is inherently achievable with the language used in your copy. Instead of ‘we’, use ‘you’ so that each sentence speaks directly to the user, making them feel you’re talking to them. Along with creating intimacy and a valuable connection, this approach enables you to explain how your product actually benefits the user.
And on a final note, working closely with the designers and others directly involved in the project will help you to write clear and concise copy that adds real value to the product and delivers an outstanding user experience. There’s absolutely no reason why the copywriter should only be involved in the process once the product is ready for market.
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