Good copy drives powerful advertising campaigns, and this is equally true of user experiences (UX). Having a good UX copywriter on your design team makes the world of difference. We caught up with Kate Wharton, an expert in UX copywriting for mobiles, and asked her to share some of her thoughts on writing with UX in mind.
Why is a good UX copywriter such a valuable asset to the design team?
They add value by collaborating within the design process to craft the copy, designing the words using their grasp of language. A UX copywriter creates and applies a tone of voice that represents the brand character yet speaks clearly and naturally within what is often limited space, on a mobile user interface (UI), for example. For apps, the UX copywriter plays an important role in distilling technical and design language to create clear content and easily understood labels.
UX copywriters can also act as a useful filter for product usability. If something requires a detailed explanation, it’s a sign that there’s a problem with the overall user experience. Simply put, if it’s difficult to explain it’s probably going to be difficult to use.
Why is copy for mobiles so much shorter than, for example, web copy?
Focused and economical use of words is the style of the UX copywriter. UX copywriting earned its stripes when phone screens were tiny. Elements like breaking over two lines or scrolling were not even possible on some mobile phone software platforms. The limited space and flexibility demanded disciplined copywriting. Headings and call-to-action buttons are effectively start and finish markers, so the words used there are often not repeated in body copy, as it’s not really necessary.
It’s also important to remember that the copy is a secondary consideration for the user, next to what they actually want to achieve. Setting up a phone for the first time means a user is likely to be focused on the screen; if they’re using a camera app their attention is focused more on the scene in front of them. They are looking for visual cues rather than reading, and good copy works seamlessly with graphics.
How does a UX copywriter craft the language to really connect with the audience?
UX copywriters are faced with the challenge of speaking to a highly diverse audience. Consistency is critical when introducing new terms, as is an awareness of how a wider audience is likely to interpret them. It’s also important to connect with people, through playfulness and fun when appropriate. And with specific applications, fitness tracking for example, it’s about striking a balance – the audience is looking for terms that are clearly understood and relevant, but the copy must also be engaging.
What does “good UX copy” mean to you? How is that achieved?
Good UX copy is never abstract. It instructs people or describes a process they are about to follow. Using the active voice helps cut through the challenges faced when writing for such an audience as diverse as mobile device users. The best approach is to focus on the outcome.
UX copy may be small in terms of word count, but it can achieve mighty feats. Users rarely, if ever, give a second thought to the consideration and precision that goes into making UX copy a delight to use. The best UX copy almost goes unnoticed.
Kate is a UK-based copywriter with a global outlook, with four years’ solid experience in UX copy. Always interested in making the complex straightforward and clear, you can reach her on LinkedIn.
Want some quick tips on how to make your copy better? “Keep it simple” is one of our favourites. Read more in Kissing while you work.