Find out what UX writers do and learn the steps to become one. Here’s what you need to know about user experience writing.
In the digital realm, user experience (UX) writing has emerged as a field where precision meets empathy. At its heart, the craft of UX writing is marked not just by an eye for detail but also by an inherent understanding of the end user. Those who excel in this discipline often find themselves cast in the role of a user's advocate.
The primary question on a UX writer's mind is straightforward yet profound: "How can this be refined to enhance the user's experience?"
In this guide, we’ll delve into the nuances of UX writing and its pivotal role in shaping user interactions. We’ll also examine the distinct responsibilities that set UX writers apart and provide insights on how to become a UX writer.
What is UX writing, and why is it important? 🤓
First, a clarification is in order: While “UX” stands for user experience at large, “UI” zeroes in on the user interface, a distinct yet closely related domain.
In the intricate landscape of digital interfaces, the art of UX writing emerges as the craft behind the precise and intuitive copy seen across websites, mobile applications, chatbots, and various online forms.
When you glance at the display in your car or navigate an app on your smartphone, there's a good chance a UX writer meticulously chose each word you encounter. The imperative for this discipline isn't just eloquence — it’s also about clarity. As users traverse the digital terrain, ambiguity or convolution can prompt them to shift to a competitor's platform. Hence, the role of UX writing becomes pivotal: to ensure clarity and keep users engaged and informed.
What is a UX writer? 🤔
Within the realm of digital products and services, the role of a UX writer emerges as an artisanal craft dedicated to sculpting the text and copy that enriches the user's online journey. Independent UX writers shoulder a significant responsibility: ensuring the textual components of user interfaces communicate with brevity and lucidity.
Their primary objective is not merely to embellish but to elucidate, guiding users through tasks with an intuitive understanding of both the process and its purpose. These writers are attuned to the precise informational needs of users, delivering the right content at the opportune moment.
Key responsibilities of a UX writer ☝️
A UX writer is responsible for writing the microcopy and copy for the UI of a digital product or experience that helps users navigate their interactions with the product.
While UX writing is inherently a dimension of UX design, its nuances often intersect with broader design principles. A UX writer's repertoire is vast, encompassing:
- Microcopy: Those succinct snippets on UI buttons, labels, and drop-down menus.
- Chatbox dialogues: Crafting automated conversations for customer service channels and scripting for digital assistants.
- Notifications: Composing concise notification text.
- Error and feedback alerts: Alerting users to glitches or non-functional links.
- Guides: Whether it's an external tutorial on using software or an internal guide for new employees.
- Longer-form content: This includes resources such as frequently asked questions.
In essence, the UX writer's hand is behind every textual nudge, alert, and guide a user encounters.
UX writing vs. other writing jobs ⚖️
There are a number of jobs that overlap with UX writing, like copywriters, technical writers, and content strategists. These other writing jobs are usually not part of the design process and occur either before or after the product design stage.
Here are some other ways in which these jobs differ from UX writing:
- Content strategist: Content strategy is a broad umbrella term that comprises a range of content tasks, including content design and UX writing. A content strategist creates content plans and content based on the company’s expectations and needs. A UX writer would most likely use guidelines set out by the content strategist but would not get involved in the broader content strategy of the business.
- Copywriters: Copywriters generally create copy for blogs, ads, social media posts, and more. Copywriters have more of a focus on spreading brand awareness and increasing traffic and clients.
- Technical writers: This role generally condenses complex information into accessible language when creating how-to articles, instruction manuals, and more. It is rare for UX writers to be responsible for creating such lengthy pieces such as instruction manuals.
What is the salary of a UX writer? 🤑
According to Glassdoor, a UX writer in the U.S. can expect an average annual salary of around $81,700 (at the time of writing). Of course, factors like experience, location, and specific job responsibilities play into this UX writer salary estimation.
How to become a UX writer ✍️
Making your way into the world of UX writing typically involves acquiring the necessary skills, crafting an impressive UX writer portfolio, and gaining practical experience. Let’s delve deeper into what these steps entail:
1. Acquire the essential skills 📚
First things first: To get started as a UX writer, there are a few notable skills to have in your toolbox:
- Writing skills: An in-depth knowledge of spelling, grammar, and tone is vital. Creating copy that’s clear and concise is also essential. This can be gained through taking courses in effective communication in design and writing.
- Design programs: Being familiar with web design and visual design can help boost your credentials as a freelance UX writer and give you a leg up in getting jobs. Programs such as Sketch and Figma may be helpful as they have free trial periods that allow you to become familiar with them.
- Research skills: Knowledge of research techniques such as A/B testing, user testing, and card sorting can help position you as an attractive candidate.
2. Build a portfolio 📖
Having a portfolio is a key element when applying for UX writing jobs. This is where you showcase what you’re capable of and display your past work. If you have no experience yet, consider creating sample pieces using software like Figma and Sketch. And if you’re in need of a portfolio, Contra’s got you covered.
3. Gain experience 💪
Clients or hiring managers often ask for past experience with UX writing. If you’re trying to enhance your UX writing resume, there are a number of ways you can choose.
Starting in a similar role can give you opportunities to improve your writing and practice UX writing. Roles such as technical writing, copywriting, and UX design roles can provide you with these opportunities.
Courses in UX writing can introduce you to the fundamentals and allow you to create a copy that can be included in a portfolio.
5 tips to get started as a UX writer 🚀
Here are some additional tips on how to get started as a UX writer if you’re transitioning from another writing-focused field:
- Enroll in UX writer-focused courses to bridge your knowledge gap in design skills and tailored knowledge of the role, or consider getting a UX writer certification.
- If you’re transitioning from the field of academic writing, journalism, or communications, ensure that you emphasize that you’re aware of the differences in the writing needed for UX writing. Show samples that are user-focused and concise in your portfolio.
- Include knowledge of software design and UX in your list of skills. If you don’t have a background in these, consider a UX design immersive course to become more familiar with the processes and terminology.
- Stay Updated: The field of UX writing is continually evolving. Stay updated on industry trends, best practices, and emerging technologies.
- Master microcopy: Practice writing microcopy for various scenarios to build your skills and refine your ability to convey information effectively in limited space
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