Until recently, I could only take a guess as to what exactly a UX Writer does. Lately, I have been seeing the term ‘UX Writer’ pop up more frequently and every company seems to be hiring them at the moment. So I did a little digging to find out what exactly the role does.
From my research I understand that the role of a UX Writer is to:
write copy in a way that tells the user exactly what they need to know, while taking into account the their needs and emotions, as well as the company’s tone of voice.
Writing for the user
One of my goals when joining my company, was to remove as much of the stress, uncertainty and confusion from our user’s experience as possible. Being that we are a fintech company and our users usually come to us in financial distress, the last thing I wanted was for our product to add to that stress or make our users feel confused or worried.
Prior to my joining the copy had been written by a number of people, with no real consideration for the user’s needs, emotional state or knowledge about finances. Copy was often an afterthought once things had been designed and there was no consistency in the way we spoke to our users.
Some places the copy was jokey and bloated, adding frustration to already annoying sections of the product, like an error message on the password reset journey. Other times it was overly formal and technical, to the point where we were basically explaining what goes on in the back end.
Being fairly new to the company, I wasn’t sure what the company’s tone of voice was. There was nothing definitive written down and depending on who you asked, you would received a different answer.
Tone of Voice
Every brand has a voice (what they say) and a tone of voice (how they say it). While a company’s voice should remain consistent throughout, the tone of that voice should take into account the user’s emotional state as well as the context in which the user reads it.
I booked a meeting with the product team in order to decide what the company’s tone of voice was. Unsurprisingly, going into that meeting, we all had a different idea of what it should be, but by the end of the meeting we were very much in agreement.
Once I had the tone of voice, which was basically a list of words with an agreed priority of which were most important, I turned it into a guideline. I added descriptions to each word explaining what it meant in practice, making it tangible rather than just a fluffy word that had no real application.
Initially the guidelines had to be tested, myself and one of the previous copy writers tested variants of the the same messages with a number of users. He wrote from his head, thinking about how best to phrase the sentence, I wrote using the guidelines I had created.
The results were mixed, some places his copy prevailed, others mine was preferred and in some instances we learned things that neither of us had thought about. Everything we learned was and continues to be fed back into the guidelines.
And that’s the point – without starting, you have nothing to build on. I never thought I was writing the definitive guide on how to talk to our users. I just wanted to create a foundation on which to build.
Overall, spending time on copy during prototyping now means that user testing is more reliable, as thinking about copy early on means that the interface itself didn’t have to do all the heavy lifting of the products usability.
It also means that we have a consistent way of speaking to our users which is beneficial for 2 reasons. One, it helps us write quickly and 2, it means that the user recognised us through the way that we speak to them, meaning that a serious message comes across as serious right from the offset.
The guidelines that I created were also transferred to the marketing team, meaning that the users are spoken to right from first contact, through to the last, in a consistent manner that aligns with our company’s tone of voice and goals.