Seamless UX Writing: 4 tips for the unsung heroes of tech

UX writers don’t get a lot of credit. And that’s OK.

When a user sees flawless UX writing, they should never think of the writer, only the product. But seamlessly guiding a user through a complicated product isn’t an easy feat. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult writing projects I’ve ever had.

So, what is good UX writing?

To answer that question, let’s start with a definition. UX writing takes a user through a product, such as an app or website. I like how Adobe’s XD Ideas phrased it. “(UX writing is) a conversation between a product and its user.”

Think about the last app you used. Every button, every explanation, every error code has been meticulously written to ensure you, the user, have the best possible experience. To create that experience, check out these four UX writing tips.

Tip 1: Be Succinct

The number one rule of UX writing is that every word should matter.

For example:
‘Click here to download a PDF’ is too long. Instead, try: ‘Download PDF.’

To provide a seamless experience, explanations, labels and buttons need to be written as concisely as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of confusing or frustrating the user.

Tip 2: Be Aware of your Product and your User

When writing for a product, you need to keep in mind who the product is designed for.

  • Is it for an older demographic or a newer generation?
  • Is it for mobile users or those on computers?
  • Is the product something light, like a game, or something serious, like a bank app?

All this plays into your writing’s tone. Going through an app or website should never feel confusing. If an insurance app is suddenly making error code jokes, it’s going to feel out of place.

Another thing to consider is word choice. Don’t tell mobile users to ‘click here’, because they need to tap. Computer users will need to click. Successful UX writers understand their users and the way in which they’ll experience the product.

Tip 3: If you Can’t Keep it Short, Keep it Simple

Some apps or sites will need longer explanations. To ensure clarity, always use simple words and never include jargon.

UX Magazine had a great example of this. Let’s say your user is having trouble signing in. You could show: “System Error (Code #1020): Authentication Issues”.

But you should show: “Unable to sign in. Incorrect name or password.” The first is technically correct, but headache-inducing for your user. The second is clear and – while not exactly short – to the point.

For tutorials, adding images or graphics often helps. If it’s too hard to explain where to find the settings options, just show it.

Always avoid blocks of text. It helps to break text up with bullet points or a ‘read more’ button, which puts the power back in the user’s hands.

Tip 4: Writing Style and Grammar Matters

A typo or esoteric grammar can be especially jarring while exploring an app or site. We may accept minor mistakes in blogs, but never in UX writing.

In terms of writing style, UX Magazine’s article on good UX writing makes an important point: the active voice works better than a passive voice. No one wants to read ‘The button must be clicked.’ Instead, we’d expect ‘click here.’

The Take-Away

A product user should never have to think about UX writing – it should just flow. For a professional experience, keep writing succinct, make sure your tone fits your product, and ensure any user can follow along.