So... what's UX Writing?
Welcome back to Supershort, the newsletter about UX Writing, Content Design, and… wait. What actually is UX Writing? And how does it differ from Content Design? It’s a question I get asked a lot, but the answer isn’t that simple.
Just one thing before we get started. Because this newsletter attracted a lot of people new to the world of tech and UX, I wanted to start off by covering the basics. Don’t worry — we’ll be diving into the nuts and bolts of UX Writing (and Content Design!) very soon.
What do you talk about when you talk about writing? We’ve been putting words on paper for ages, but there have never been more ways to use written language than today — and they’re all very different.
Just think about it — someone who writes a novel is doing something completely different than a journalist. And someone who writes copy for an ad agency couldn’t necessarily do the work of a social media manager.
The only thing all these people have in common is that they’re all writing. Otherwise, their jobs couldn’t be more different.
A new kind of writing
So how does UX Writing fit into this picture? Because it’s such a new discipline, and not everyone reading this might be comfortable with the vocabulary of the tech industry, I’ll compare it to something that’s existed for longer.
You might have heard of copywriting — that’s what we call writing text, or copy, that’s used for marketing material. Companies employ copywriters to write text for their advertising campaigns, websites, and other communications.
A UX writer’s main occupation is also to write, but with a different purpose.
While a copywriter is often on the marketing or communications team, a UX writer is generally part of the product team — the people responsible for designing and developing a digital product like an app or website. The exact composition of a product team can differ, but traditionally consists of designers, developers, and a product manager — all focusing on a different aspect of the product development process.
Like we discussed in the last newsletter, most digital products contain a lot of text, but until recently it was often written by non-writers — the designers and developers on the team.
In some cases, a copywriter would be asked to work on the copy — but that’s where the main difference between a copywriter and a UX writer comes in — the latter is specialized in something called UX Design.
In short, UX Design — or User Experience Design — is dedicated to creating well-functioning, easy-to-understand, accessible digital experiences. Have you ever used an app that didn’t work well, things were hard to find, and it left you frustrated?
Well, that’s bad UX Design. Good UX Design is when things just work.
A UX writer knows all about how you can create great user experiences, but instead of doing it through visual design or code, they approach it through the lens of language, for example by:
Writing copy that’s easy to understand, avoids technical lingo and instead explains things in a human way.
Making sure that all writing is organized in a way that makes sense, and it efficiently guides people to what they want to do.
Creating something that’s accessible to anyone, anywhere — even if they use a screen reader or are reading in a right-to-left language.
There’s more to it, of course — and we’ll dive into that in future issues of this newsletter.
So… what’s Content Design?
You might have seen another term being used in conversations about UX Writing. Content Design is a relatively new way of talking about design-focused writing that’s generally used to describe a more high-level approach to the discipline.
While a UX writer could be seen as someone who ‘just writes copy’, a content designer is generally seen as:
Someone who thinks more holistically about the impact of writing on the entire product.
A more strategic role with a bigger influence on the design direction of the company.
Finding ways to communicate information in the best way possible, even if not necessarily with copy.
There are a lot of ways to describe the various writing disciplines in an organization — this article by Chloe Tsang does a great job at differentiating between UX writers and content designers, while also explaining the differences with other writing functions you might come across.
However, in the real world lots of people use UX Writing and Content Design interchangeably. We shouldn’t forget this is a very new discipline, so it’s only normal that there’s an ongoing conversation about how these roles should be described.
That’s why Supershort covers everything at the intersection of design and language — no matter what term is used to describe it :)
Alright, that’s it for this issue. If UX Writing seemed a bit confusing before, hopefully this clears things up a bit. As always, just send a reply to this email if there’s anything you’d like me to see cover in the future.
Thanks for reading!