You may have the best digital product design, but the user will not know what to do next without text. How to tell them the right thing at the right time and improve their user experience (UX)? By using thoughtful microcopy and UX writing. This discipline aims to establish communication between the user and the digital product, ensuring that both users and clients are satisfied. What exactly are UX writing and microcopy, and what are the basic principles for creating them?

UX writing and microcopy: The hidden power of words

As the amount of apps, websites, software and other digital products grows, the field of UX writing, also called microcopy, content strategy or content design, gets more and more attention. Why? Because these words in the user interface (UI) support the user journey. It means that texts like labels, descriptions, buttons, controls, warnings, notifications, error messages and instructions guide the user. These texts in UI are a full-fledged part of the design and thus the entire user experience. They help them complete tasks, understand the application’s functionality, and can even strengthen the brand.

 

The term UX writing refers to the design of a conversation between the user and the digital product. For this conversation to be effective and the product usable, the texts should sound like they are coming from a human, not a machine or a robot. They should also be concise and clear.

 

Example of conversation with a robot (first image) and a human (second image)

Example of conversation with a robot: screenshot with the error message not giving a chance to try again

 

The mentioned microcopy is a category of UI text which falls under the broader discipline of UX writing. The latter focuses more on the product as a whole because communication with the user should be a part of a particular content strategy. You should also be aware that UX writing is a subset of UX design.

Diagram showing the described hierarchy

diagram showing the ux writing hierarchy

 

UX Writer: Writer and designer of your app

While apps and other digital products may not contain much text, a lot of design work and research goes into them. To create an effective microcopy, it is important to understand the needs of both users and clients. Usually, the UX designer is responsible for drafting texts, including their control, testing and iteration. In some cases, the “supplier” of these texts can be a marketing copywriter, but generally, they don’t participate in the design process.

 

The digital world constantly evolves, and the user interface’s complexity grows. The role of UX writer is born, taking on this responsibility and reflecting the importance of content strategy within digital products.

 

UX writer’s work is a part of the design process, and that’s why they are a full member of a design team. They cooperate closely with UX and UI designers and everybody across teams who can give them the information they need to fulfil users’ needs and strategic goals of a product. What’s more, as the first person to go through the app, they can detect its shortcomings before testing.

 

You could think that content strategy is mainly connected to marketing. And you would be partly correct because there is a specific connection. Even content in design should be consistent with the product’s brand. However, the nature of the text is different. So what’s the difference between UX writing and marketing copywriting? And what do they have in common?

 

UX writing ≠ Copywriting

Unlike marketing texts which aim for attention, text in UI guides the user. They motivate action, give instructions and also provide immediate feedback. UX Writer doesn’t use words to attract new customers – it can be the side effect of excellent user experience. 

 

What do these disciplines share? 

 

Both UX writers and marketing copywriters should know their audience. They speak to it through words that correspond with a defined voice & tone. It means you have the same voice all the time, but the tone changes with context and according to who they’re speaking to. It would help if you had your voice & tone defined in the documentation. Typically, in larger companies, you can find it in the content style guide, a set of principles and rules for all the company content.

 

Thanks to voice & tone, the communication of your brand can be consistent on all the platforms while being easily recognizable from the competition. You should keep consistency in every language and keep in mind that localization of text isn’t just its translation but respecting voice & tone and users’ needs.

 

The example of consistency in the app Bazoš 

Before:

 

After:

 

The job experience from marketing, where working with content strategy and voice & tone is your daily bread, can benefit a UX writer. The advantage for clients is how easily we can measure the performance of the UX texts. Sometimes you “just” change the words on the button in the app and the conversion increase by several tens of per cent. We should definitely not underestimate the power of these “small words”.

 

The example of conversion after changing words on the button from the Google ecosystem

 

Content first. And other principles of UX writing

“Can you fix the words?” If this is what the UX writer overhears and, at that moment, sees the text for the first time, you can’t expect them to come up with a working replacement in a few minutes. Involving a UX writer in the project as soon as possible is crucial. So no more “lorem ipsum”, please.

 

We should create UX text based on the content – that’s why we need to know what information we want to give the user and what we want to say to them. When the user doesn’t know what’s going on in the app, maybe it’s not the words that are wrong but the design. So what should we have in mind to make the app without friction?

 

Write for the humans. The language makes the user interface more human, accessible and user-friendly. We use a common vocabulary and no jargon (unless you have a particular target group). Using language, we can connect with the user and evoke some emotion in them – primarily positive. And when we remind them of the added value it brings them, we can motivate them to take action. But the user must always know what happens after they click or press something.

 

Například po změně textu v aplikaci Krizové stavy uživatel po zmáčknutí tlačítka ví, že po zadání licenčního klíče se klíč nejen odešle, ale i aktivuje.

Před:   Po:

 

People don’t read. Not when they don’t have the time or mood for it. Therefore, we do not burden them with unnecessary information in the app. We think about the situation users are currently in and how they got there. Usually, they don’t use the app to read a lot of text – they want to achieve their goals and fulfil their needs – and we help them do that. We’ll guide them further, and if something goes wrong, we’ll explain where it went wrong and offer a solution. Ideally, through shorter but comprehensible texts.

UX writing & microcopy: little words with a big impact 

Today, we would hardly find an app or a digital product without text. Therefore, we must remember how much influence UX writing and microcopy can have on the overall user experience. Using several examples, we showed how UX writing can look in practice and why it is worth investing in. The words of a UX writer may not sell immediately, but they can bring you satisfied users and higher conversions to your app. So what are you waiting for? The best apps are beautiful on the outside and thoughtful on the inside.

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