What exactly do UX Writers do?


It’s the latest Silicon Valley ‘hot job’.
Google describes the role as ‘crafting copy that helps users complete the task at hand, whilst Dropbox says ‘Create copy that’s straightforward, helpful and human.’

Sounds familiar? That’s because here at RSA Digital our content experts already do this, working alongside UX and Design to make sure the copy we use in our prototypes is as good as it can be.

How do we benefit from using content experts in this way?

Firstly, content collaborates with Design and UX on prototyping, which means our usability testing gets more realistic results – we know that users are seeing something quite close to the end copy. Whether you like it or not, even if you’re only testing functionality, users will get hung up on the words they see before them. The benefit of being able to tweak these words in the context they’ll be seen in, and amend accordingly as you test, is immense.

Secondly, the content team are well-versed in the brand’s tone of voice, since they write for the web. They’re also close to the rest of the customer experience of the brand, as they often work alongside documentation and ops teams. Copywriters understand the importance of context, so even if they don’t have this knowledge, they’ll be sure to gain it before they start work on a web journey to make sure the content’s consistent across channels.

And the third, and most important benefit, is that copy and design work hand in hand to create a page where the design is appropriate to the copy and the copy complements the design. Gone are the days when a wireframe was ‘thrown over the fence’ for some words to be added in. And if you’re still using this approach then you may be familiar with your copywriter questioning the logic of a copy box where you might not need any content, or complaining about character restrictions. Or designers complaining that the copywriter’s written too much copy for the space provided!

A/B Testing

Creating a user journey is just the beginning. That journey will be rigorously measured and optimised over time.

UX writing is vital in helping to optimise user journeys. I read a recent quote by Craig Sullivan from Optimise or Die that said ‘I estimate that at least 60+% of my tests got their main lift from optimising the words, the button copy, the headlines, the text decoration, the layout, the scan-ability, readability, comprehension and simplicity of TEXT.’

That means much of your successful optimisation can be delivered by a copywriter simply making content more compelling or easier to understand.

Going from long-form to short-form

It’s true that in some organisations the content function is there simply to serve marketing and brand teams, either by creating long-form copy or managing the brochureware page content. But those organisations are missing a trick.

It does take a certain skill to switch from this rich long-form content production into writing short-form functional copy.

Functional copy for a mobile-first approach to journey design needs to be minimal. UX writing is about micro-copy (and micro-detail – you need to understand each and every possible user path!). Sometimes you may need to communicate with just a word or two (or even no words at all). Reducing something complicated to a small explanation that’s accessible to all requires a different skill-set to writing a long-form article.

An intuitive web journey is one where the copy doesn’t need to be thought about by the user – they won’t even notice the words, because they blend seamlessly into the overall experience.

At RSA Digital we’ve moved towards real collaborative working between UX, Design, and Content, and we’ve all benefitted from this approach.

So I’d strongly advocate the investment in UX writing – because the right words will elevate your web designs, and your users’ experiences, and reap rewards for your business.

We’re currently looking for a Content Strategist to join our team.  If you’re interested please get in touch.