Drop everything — do you realize what you’re doing right now? (Other than reading a blog post by your favorite content marketers, of course.)
That’s right: You’re having a user experience (UX).
Someone — or, more accurately, a lot of someones — put hard work into creating this experience for users like you. It’s called UX design. While you might not think about it when you’re chatting with friends on social media or buying that new pair of shoes you fell in love with, you’re constantly enjoying the efforts of a UX designer.
One such expert is the often-unsung, always-humble UX writer. Today, we’re putting the spotlight on this role to find out who UX writers are, what they do and why they’re the best thing to happen to digital marketing since technology itself.
Portrait of a UX Writer
Imagine a desk in the corner of a room. There’s someone hunched over this desk, hard at work on the latest piece of groundbreaking marketing copy. A cello playlist drifts softly from the speakers, interrupted now and again by a 70’s bop from the “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” soundtrack. A dog chews a squeaky toy in the background.
What I’ve just painted for you is a portrait of a UX writer. (Okay, fine, I was mostly describing myself, but you get the picture.)
A UX writer is the linguistic genius responsible for the written content that guides you smoothly and intuitively through a user experience. They create a little bit of everything, from the body content of your favorite blog to the button text in a particularly persuasive call-to-action. Their goal is to get you to focus on the story they’re telling — and to do that, they harness all the power of good UX writing to limit technological tribulations. If you’re interacting easily with a webpage or digital product, you have a UX writer to thank for it.
Of course, no artist works in a vacuum. A UX writer is often part of a team including (but not limited to) a content strategy expert, a web designer and maybe even other UX writing professionals to bounce ideas off of. Together, these tech wizards conjure up a user experience you’ll truly enjoy.
UX Writing in Action
To fully appreciate the content design work a UX writer does, it’s best to look at a few examples. Sure, you can find these just about anywhere — but here are some of my favorites:
Disney’s 404 Error Page
This 404 error page is an example of top-notch UX writing. Why? Simple: It doesn’t take you out of the experience. This Disney UX writer leveraged a popular character and used a play on the movie’s title (“Ralph Breaks the Internet”) to keep you engaged in the magic even in the midst of a digital disturbance. Better yet, the UX design includes a conveniently placed search bar to help troubleshoot, which keeps you from leaving the site in frustration.
Uncommon Goods’ Subscribe Button
I don’t always subscribe to email distribution lists, but when I do, it’s because of UX writing like this. Uncommon Goods uses fun, engaging copy and the allure of exclusivity to bring this simple user experience to life. The UX writer also offers a clear (though noticeably smaller and less fun) way to opt out of the offer. Plus, the wording on this button — “no thanks” — cleverly forces you to face the fact that you’re turning down the opportunity to save money. Now hold on while I check my inbox for these secret sales.
Chick-fil-A’s Breakfast Menu
Viewing a breakfast menu is a run-of-the-mill, everyday task — but not at Chick-fil-A. Thanks to top-notch content design and brief but engaging copy, this page encourages you to interact with a personality quiz to get recommendations for your “morning motivation.” Notice that the UX writer has carefully positioned the content as a relationship: Chick-fil-A is asking to know more about you, and when you click a button, you’re answering in first person instead of some generic one-word response. Now that’s digital product design you can have fun with.
UX Writer vs. Technical Writer vs. Copywriter vs. Content Writer
So, now you know what a UX writer is (a digital artist and linguistic mastermind), what they do (guide the user experience with intuitive copy design and placement) and what their work looks like (404 error pages, subscribe buttons and even breakfast menus). You know everything there is to know, right?
Not so fast.
The truth is that every UX writer belongs to a large, complex family of other writing professions. I can attest to this, because we all get together and argue over the Oxford comma on weekends.
Before adding a UX writer to your digital marketing arsenal, it’s important to know how this person fits into the writing ecosystem. It’s also helpful to know what they’re generally responsible for, how their role overlaps with other writers’, why you might need more than one kind of writer on your team and more.
Here’s a look at the writer family tree:
Simply put, “copywriter” is an umbrella term for anyone who — you guessed it — writes copy. That means a UX writer is technically a copywriter. So is a technical writer, a content writer, a ghostwriter and even your niece when she writes promotional content on the construction paper sign for her lemonade stand.
Copywriting in all its forms is a key element of digital and traditional marketing. You can find examples of it just about anywhere, from the scripts of memorable commercials (Jake from State Farm, anyone?) to the copy in those responsive display ads that hang around your favorite websites.
Not to be dramatic, but technical writers truly make the world go ’round. Why? They’re the people responsible for translating complex, next-to-impossible topics into written content we can all understand. From instruction manuals and how-to guides to software documentation and product specifications, these tech experts are excellent at turning the convoluted into the commonplace. They also help us navigate the devices we rely on every day.
Technical writers tend to have backgrounds in fields like engineering or data science. That’s because they’re required to break intricate programs, tasks and requirements into basic explanations — which means they need a deep understanding of what they’re actually writing about.
Content writers differ from technical writers in that they gather subject matter expertise across a huge variety of fields — not all of them technical. A day in the life of a content writer can include outlining an eBook about lean manufacturing, writing a blog about traveling to Italy, coming up with email subject lines and copy to promote a new workout product and then crafting a white paper all about software-as-a-service companies.
Yes, there’s a bit of overlap between a technical and content writer. However, for the most part, you can find the former translating complex tech topics while the latter focuses more on helping brands develop their voice and using search engine optimization (SEO) best practices hand-in-hand with a content strategist.
Don’t call the Ghostbusters — this particular spirit is a friendly one. A ghostwriter is a person who writes copy as someone else, which means they’re technically content writers who do their work while wearing a disguise. When you hire a ghostwriter to create written content for your blog, social media account, email newsletter or other marketing channel, you get to put your own name in the coveted byline.
At last, we arrive back at the UX writer. By now, you’ve probably noticed that UX copywriting could also fit into many of the other categories; the only difference is that these professionals write content specifically designed to support the entire user experience, while other copy or content writers may focus more exclusively on the writing itself.
Think of it this way: Content writers handle the words, technical writers handle the tech and UX writers bring it all together to help guide users through a content universe. Pretty impressive, right?
The Content Marketer
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Why Your Digital Marketing Needs a UX Writer
Digital marketing is a big deal. It’s your chance to tell your brand’s story to existing and potential customers alike.
But this isn’t your average campfire story. No — to be effective, digital marketing needs to use technology in ways that bring your brand to life in rich, engaging ways. The problem is that, when leveraged poorly, technology can hurt you more than it helps. That means you need a smart, effective way to rein in your tech features and make sure they’re all pushing toward a unified user experience — and that, in turn, means you need a UX writer.
Here are just a few things a UX writer can do for your content marketing strategy:
They Keep Users on Your Page
Have you ever visited a website that was built like a labyrinth? You probably didn’t stick around very long.
Good UX writing eliminates that risk. By considering every element, from the smallest call-to-action button to the biggest landing page outline, a user experience writer simplifies and streamlines the user experience with copy that just makes sense. In this way, UX copywriting helps keep visitors from abandoning your website because it’s too convoluted.
However, that’s not all you can expect from high-end UX design and content strategy. When your copy decisions are shaped and directed by the user experience, visitors are more likely to click through your other pages, increasing brand exposure and maximizing the chance of a sale.
They Make Marketing More Persuasive
Remember that Uncommon Goods email subscription button I showed you earlier? That’s an example of how an everyday marketing task can become creative and persuasive through the power of good UX writing. With a UX copywriting expert on your team, you can count on written content that appeals to key emotions, makes promises of exclusivity, creates product hype and generally leaves readers wanting more. You have to write those blogs, buttons and error pages anyway — why not make sure every word is working double-time?
They Cut Through the Chatter
There are nearly 2 billion websites on the internet. You’ve got a lot of competition.
Luckily, there’s a secret weapon just waiting to help you out. That’s right: A UX writer’s job is to cut through all that chatter and make yours the user experience customers actually enjoy. Through streamlined content design, quality copywriting and an eye for eliminating pain points, UX writers help you stand out from the competition in all the ways that matter.
Say Goodbye to Mediocre Marketing
You have a user experience every time you click a link. You’re having one right now. That’s all possible thanks to the UX designer and content strategist teams who work tirelessly behind the scenes — especially UX writers. By combining an ear for language with an eye for technology, a UX writer brings your marketing to life to help keep users on your page for longer (and give them more opportunities to interact with your digital content).
So, are you ready to say goodbye to mediocre marketing? Subscribe to our newsletter today to get UX copywriting wisdom delivered to your inbox — and don’t forget to explore our site for more examples of user experience at work.