Writing is Designing: Three Rules for Writing Efficient UX Copy 


Think about, if you’ll, that you simply’ve found a cute new gem of a bakery. The pastry chef welcomes you into the ambient, delightfully quirky area. She graciously offers you a tour of the right pastries expertly organized within the show case. She tells you of the method, describing the work of kneading the dough as one would describe creating a bit of artwork. She presents fascinating anecdotes about among the extra esoteric substances and baking strategies.

In the end, she compliments you in your distinguished style in scones and gingerly rings up your gadgets. “How about an espresso to go together with it?” You fortunately agree.  

She then pauses, appears into the gap, and says robotically, “Outline buyer cost methodology.” For a second, the phrases awkwardly dangle within the air. “Um, credit score please,” you say, and she or he swivels the cost kiosk towards you.  

You quickly exit the store, considering not concerning the darkish chocolate cardamom scone wrapped snugly in your bag or the spectacular mural that spanned the size of the well-renovated area. However the way it obtained slightly bizarre there on the finish.    

Our alternative of phrases can have an effect on an expertise, whether or not on or offline. In a digital product, “Outline buyer cost methodology” is called microcopy (or UX copy). Microcopy refers back to the small textual content snippets guiding a consumer by way of the expertise. Directions, buttons, dialogs, labels, and error messages are all examples of microcopy.    

It’s price mentioning that microcopy is not content material. Articles, posts, media and advertising and marketing messages are all examples of content material. It’s important for a designer to be educated a couple of product’s content material, however they don’t seem to be answerable for crafting it. 

Writing is designing   

As designers, we take to coronary heart the model tips for elements of visible design like colours, fonts, and sort kinds. However strip any interface all the way down to the barest, most vital components, and also you’re left with phrases. Phrases themselves are sometimes not given the eye they deserve by designers (and sometimes product groups generally). I might argue that the shortlist of core model tips ought to embody tips on writing. 

Writing must be led by designers  

Of all product crew members, UX Designers have the most effective vantage level to information UX writing. Our distinct perspective is fueled by our data of the product, our customers’ wants, and our shopper’s enterprise targets. Due to this fact it’s logical that we, the architects of the consumer’s expertise, must be the first wielders of the phrases that form that have. 

Designers ought to hone their writing abilities 

Writing just isn’t a talent UX and UI designers are inclined to give attention to of their core coaching. This was definitely true for me. By way of expertise and intuition, my writing abilities elevated incrementally over time. In hindsight, this sluggish and regular development may have been fast-tracked with only a little bit of time and vitality spent consciously constructing these abilities. I like to recommend that designers of all ranges do exactly this.  

I took a latest deep dive into varied writing books and sources and wished to share a few of that data. What follows are three basic rules for writing efficient microcopy that I’ve discovered particularly helpful in my very own writing. 

Editor’s Notice: UX copy vs. UI copy: What’s the distinction?

The road between UI copy and UX copy may be blurry. UI copy typically refers back to the copy on interfaces, similar to buttons and headers. UX copy relates extra to informational textual content and assist textual content — textual content that provides the consumer extra context relating to the actions they will take and the outcomes of these actions.  

1. Use plain language  

Writing in plain language ensures readers will acquire a fast, clear understanding. Textual content written in plain language reduces the cognitive load on the consumer and permits them to give attention to the duty at hand. It is usually a consider accessibility. Plain language improves the expertise of people with cognitive and studying disabilities. 

Above all else, be clear  

Messages must be simple and simply comprehensible. Interval. That is plain language in a nutshell.  

Be concise  

Utilizing fewer phrases can typically simplify a message. Don’t use ten phrases when 5 will do — however don’t get carried away right here! This doesn’t imply that utilizing fewer phrases is all the time higher. Consider the earlier rule and ensure to not sacrifice readability for the sake of brevity.  

Select straightforward, casual phrases  

Scale back cognitive load by avoiding pointless jargon and complicated phrases. Deanna Horton’s Handy List of Human Words is a unbelievable useful resource that will help you commerce fancy phrases for quick ones. 

Use quick phrases and sentences  

These make for a faster, extra direct learn. Easy as that. Nuff stated. 

Write such as you converse  

Preserve it pure. Strive studying your copy out loud and see if it sounds pure. Returning to our opening state of affairs, a extra human different to the mechanical “Outline buyer cost methodology” is likely to be, “How would you wish to pay?”   

2. Be conversational  

People talk with different people by way of dialog. People talk with computer systems by way of interfaces. Us people have been speaking with each other for tens (lots of?) of 1000’s of years. However it’s only in our very latest historical past that we have now begun speaking with computer systems. So we don’t completely know the way to deal with it but.  

As Kinneret Yifrah factors out in Microcopy: The Complete Guide, we “deal with [our]computer systems in keeping with the social norms we apply when speaking with different human beings.” Interfaces, due to this fact, ought to comply with the foundations of human conversations and abide by social norms.  

Know the context  

By way of consumer analysis, you recognize so much about your consumer’s general wants, targets, and motivations. That is important high-level data. Being conscious of their fast state of affairs is equally as vital. You could know your consumer is general very career-focused, so it is likely to be a good suggestion to encourage them to attach their LinkedIn account. However you must also bear in mind that if the consumer is within the midst of recovering a misplaced password, now may not be the most effective time to immediate them to attach. 

When shaping your message, contemplate the consumer’s latest circumstances and what has introduced them thus far within the expertise. What are they making an attempt to do? What are their expectations? What are they doubtlessly considering and feeling? A greater understanding of the context of your consumer’s journey will enable you higher predict the way to finest talk with them.   

Be cooperative & take turns  

In a superb dialog, contributors work towards a mutual objective: maybe getting paperwork crammed out earlier than a physician’s go to or one thing extra oblique like filling the elevator with simply sufficient dialog to make a brief journey as least awkward as attainable.  

Exchanges must be comparatively even, not lengthy, drawn-out monologues. Pause for understanding and suggestions. A part of that is realizing how a lot info to supply at one given time and when to pause and pay attention for suggestions.  

One possibility is to make use of progressive disclosure. Maybe the consumer doesn’t want the ins and outs of why their electronic mail deal with is required, and you may present a “why do we’d like this?” hyperlink ought to they need to know extra.  

Use the lively voice  

We have a tendency to not use passive once we converse, simply once we write. It’s additionally a means to make sure a way of tempo because the lively voice feels extra pure – extra like a human dialog that we people so irrationally anticipate from computer systems. 

Be well mannered  

Being well mannered doesn’t simply imply saying please and thanks. A genuinely well mannered interplay supplies worth, doesn’t waste the consumer’s time, and supplies choices (particularly for errors).  

Think about you’ve ordered a espresso at a diner, and also you’re informed, “I’m so sorry. There presently is not any espresso. This should be very disappointing. Please settle for our apologies.” Whereas that response is likely to be apologetic, it’s not precisely well mannered. It wastes your time, supplies no helpful info, and suggests no resolution.  A greater response is likely to be, “Sorry, we’re out of espresso till tomorrow. How about tea?”  

A conversational design instance 

Airbnb masters the artwork of conversational writing. Check out any property display screen. It reads like a dialog you’re having throughout an in-person tour. “That is The place you’ll sleep… Right here’s What this place presents… Issues to know” Using “you” invitations the consumer proper into the home.  

Airbnb screenshot

The property display screen mentions one thing very human, which is the act of sleeping – Airbnb may have simply as simply known as it “Bedrooms.” 

3. Use your voice and tone

Let’s discuss who we signify on our facet of the dialog. We converse for our shopper’s or employer’s manufacturers. It may be a sub-brand or a person product’s model. 

Your voice is constant  

Consider your voice as your persona. Voice is set largely by your model’s attributes/persona. At Large Nerd Ranch, our traits are issues like Courageous, Pioneering, and Seasoned. Your shopper ought to be capable of furnish some documentation about their model. If not, a workshop could also be so as.  

Your tone adjustments based mostly on context  

Tone conveys temper. If voice determines what you say, tone is the way you say it. Tone must be tailored to suit the consumer’s circumstances and frame of mind. The tone you utilize whereas speaking at a party would (hopefully) be totally different than that you’d use at a funeral. Likewise, the tone used whereas onboarding would differ from the tone of an error message.  

Take a look at this message from the Slack app, highlighting some latest function adjustments. Slack describes its model voice as human, clear, and concise. The tone is upbeat and informative.   

Screenshot of Slack UI.

They nailed the supply. “Two issues!” You may think about a coworker tapping you on the shoulder to relay a fast thought. Let’s verify that “Human” checkbox on Slack’s listing of name traits. 

The informative sentence that follows is evident and concise, summarizing the updates in simply 9 phrases. The accompanying hyperlink is direct and phrased in plain language—it additionally presents the consumer further info ought to they have an interest. Whereas Slack’s product crew little doubt was tempted to listing all the different enhancements they labored so laborious on, they confirmed restraint in highlighting simply two and tucked the remainder away for extra curious readers.   

It’s vital to notice the positioning of the message; It’s positioned inside the context of the options in query. Had the announcement been delivered outdoors of that context, in a modal or an electronic mail, for instance, further rationalization or pictures might have been wanted. 

Yet another factor. Let’s acknowledge the politeness of the message. It doesn’t interrupt the consumer from going about their enterprise, however perches atop the enter subject till the consumer acknowledges it.   

Editor’s Notice: How a lot are you able to make UX copywriting?

Efficient UX writing doesn’t simply make you a greater developer — it opens the thrilling profession path of technical writing. In line with ZipRecruiter, the typical UX copywriter makes greater than $100,000 a yr, with skilled UX content material writers making over $150,000. Good UX writing is difficult to come back by and a important a part of the software program design course of.  

Tying all of it collectively  

 Now that we have now mentioned three vital rules of fine UX writing: plain language, conversational writing, and voice and tone, let’s check out one final instance and see if we will verify the bins on what we’ve realized. How does this last step within the Airbnb reserving course of fee?  

Plain language? Test. It’s clear, concise, and casual. It makes use of quick phrases and sentences and avoids jargon.   

Conversational? Test. From the immediate, it’s clear how I’m to reply. It even has a recommended begin to assist get me on my means.   

Correct use of voice and tone? Test and verify. “Straight-forward,” “Considerate,” and “Spirited” are a few of Airbnb’s model values, and all are represented on this instance.  

Example of Airbnb's website UX.

Airbnb has earned itself an A+! 

Main bonus factors!: Maybe most significantly, Airbnb takes benefit of this interplay to perform targets vital to each the customers (each Traveler and Host) and to the enterprise. In certainly one of their posts, Airbnb mentions a few their firm targets:  

  • For Vacationers to really feel welcomed in a Host’s dwelling   
  • For Hosts to really feel safe opening their properties to Vacationers   

The copy nudges these two strangers into making a social connection, thereby encouraging a social relationship that advantages each the customers and the enterprise.  

Concentrate on writing! 

When written successfully, microcopy could make your designs simpler and the general expertise far more clear and pleasing on your consumer. Consider the three rules lined, take time to focus, and reap the rewards. 


Nielson Norman Group’s UX Writing Study Guide 

Microcopy: The Complete Guide by Kinneret Yifrah 


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