You're a UX writer. Congratulations! You're responsible for the words that appear on screens everywhere: in websites, apps, error messages, help text, and more. The user's experience with your product begins with your words.
User experience (UX) writing is one of the most important but least understood aspects of product design. Good UX writing makes a product feel effortless to use and helps users quickly understand how to use it. Bad UX writing can make even the simplest tasks difficult and frustrating.
So, how can you make sure your UX writing is as effective as possible? Below are eleven actionable tips to get you started.
1. Define Your Audience and Their Needs
UX writing isn't just about cranking out words on a page. It's about understanding your audience and their needs and then delivering the right information in a way that's easy for them to understand.
Start by defining your audience. Who are they? What do they need? What are their pain points? Once you know that, you can start tailoring your content to meet their needs. Keep in mind that not everyone is going to want the same level of detail—some people will want the Cliff Notes, while others will want all the gory details.
Understand your audience, and then deliver the right information in a way that's easy for them to understand.
2. Keep Your Writing Clear and Concise
Your writing needs to be crystal clear, especially when it comes to explaining complex concepts or processes. Long, rambling sentences only serve to confuse your readers and frustrate them.
Start by breaking down your points into easy-to-read chunks, and use clear and concise language to explain them. Don't overload your readers with too much information at once—spread it out over several paragraphs, if necessary. And always avoid industry jargon and acronyms, unless you're sure that your readers will be familiar with them.
3. Use Active Voice
When you're writing for the web, it's important to use active voice. Why? Because using active voice makes your copy more engaging and easier to read. It also helps to keep your sentences succinct, which is essential when you're working with limited space.
To put it simply, an active voice makes your writing more powerful. It gives your words momentum, which is especially helpful when you're trying to punch up your headlines and call-to-action buttons.
So how can you make sure you're using active voice in your UX writing? It's simple—just make sure that the subject of the sentence is doing the action. For example: "The app crashed" is in passive voice, while "I crashed the app" is in active voice.
When it comes to UX writing, an active voice can make all the difference.
4. Use Positive Language
Nobody likes being bombarded with negative messages, so avoid using words like "don't," "can't," "won't," and "stop." Instead, focus on the positive and use phrases like "you can," "you will," and "keep going."
People are more likely to respond to messages that make them feel good, so if you can find a way to incorporate positive language into your writing, do it. It'll make a big difference in how effective your writing is.
5. Be Consistent
If there's one thing that all great writers have in common, it's that they're consistent. No matter what you're writing, whether it's a blog post or a user manual, being consistent is key to maintaining a good relationship with your audience.
When it comes to UX writing, being consistent means more than just using the same voice and tone throughout your work. It also means using the same design elements, layout, and format. This might seem like a lot to keep track of, but it's actually pretty easy once you get into the habit of it.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Use the same font and font size throughout your work.
Stick to a consistent layout, with headers, sub-headers, and lists.
Use the same tone and voice throughout your work.
Be consistent with your use of images, videos, and other multimedia elements.
6. Write for the Web
You wouldn't read a book the same way you read a website, would you? Of course not. You expect different things from each medium, and your reading habits reflect that.
The same is true of UX writing. Just as you wouldn't use the same tone or language in a blog post as you would in an email, you need to adjust your writing for the web. Here are a few tips:
Use short, concise sentences. On the web, people are scanning rather than reading, so make your points quickly and clearly.
Use familiar, everyday words. Keep your language simple and straightforward to avoid confusion.
Use active voice. This will make your writing more engaging and easier to understand.
Use bullet points. Breaking down information into small, digestible chunks will make it more accessible for your reader.
Structure your content hierarchy. Use headlines, subheadings and lists to organize your content in a way that's easy to scan and navigate.
7. Use Typography to Your Advantage
You might not know this, but the way you use typography can have a big impact on the effectiveness of your writing. Here are a few tips:
Use headlines and subheadings to break up text and make it easier to scan.
Use bullet points or numbered lists when possible.
Use short, concise sentences.
Use simple words and avoid jargon.
Highlight key information with bold or italicized text.
These are just a few tips, but following them can make a big difference in how easy your writing is to read and understand. And remember, the goal is to make it as easy as possible for users to find the information they need.
8. Implement Microcopy
Good microscopy takes time and effort to get right, but it’s worth it. Your users will thank you for it.
To write good microscopy, start by thinking about what your users want to achieve and what questions they might have. Then, write clear and concise copy that helps them achieve their goals.
Here are a few tips:
Use actionable language
Be clear and concise
Write in a friendly tone
Use contractions to sound more like a human
Use helpful error messages
By following these tips, you can make your microcopy more effective and help your users achieve their goals.
9. Pay Attention to the Tone of your Voice
The tone of voice you use in your UX writing is just as important as the words you choose. After all, the tone of your writing reflects the personality of your brand, and it’s one of the ways you can connect with your users on a more personal level.
So what is the tone of voice, exactly? It’s the way your writing sounds to your readers, and it can be either formal or informal, serious or playful, friendly or businesslike. The important thing is to be consistent with the tone you choose and make sure it’s in line with the overall tone of your website or app.
Not sure what tone to use? Take a cue from your users. Write as you would speak to a friend, and you’ll be on the right track.
10. Know When to Use Humor
Writing for UX isn't all about being serious all the time—sometimes, you can lighten things up with a bit of humor. But how do you know when to use it?
Here are a few guidelines:
Humor should be used sparingly. Too much of it will just come across as try-hard and unprofessional.
Make sure your target audience will appreciate the humor. If you're not sure, err on the side of caution.
Use humor to relief tension, not to create it. Avoid controversial topics, offensive jokes, and anything that might make your user uncomfortable.
Make sure your joke is actually funny. We've all been there—you think something is hilarious but it falls flat with your audience. If you're not sure, ask a friend or colleague for their opinion before hitting publish.
11. Get Feedback From Others
The final tip is to get feedback from others. Share your work with fellow writers, friends, and family, and listen to what they have to say. They might have helpful insights that you didn't consider.
Getting feedback can be difficult, especially if you're attached to your work. But it's important to remember that feedback is meant to help you improve, not tear you down. So try to be open to what others have to say, and use it to make your writing even better.
In short, a great user experience is important, and your writing plays a big role in that. By following the tips above, you can make your writing more effective and improve the overall user experience.