Good UX writing delivers an important aspect of any good user experience. The quality of UX writing shapes how users feel about using a product or service. So getting UX writing right is a crucial requirement. In this article, to help keep UX writers on the correct path, let’s consider five all-too-common mistakes to avoid. But, before we do, let’s look more broadly at UX writing and its importance in UX design.
What Is UX Writing?
UX writing expresses the essence of what the user encounters when using a product, Web site, or service. Good UX writing uses words to paint a picture. Another way to see UX writing is as a series of guides that steer users in interacting with a user interface.
From Web-site wireframes to launch, when you’re creating any UX design element, including UX writing, the object is always supporting the user’s clear understanding of a user interface. As Figure 1 demonstrates, you need to prevent users ever becoming confused about how to proceed with their interactions. Clarity is everything.
UX writing is an important part of the UX design process. Let’s look at four reasons for this.
UX writing forms a connection between the user and the user interface. In an ideal world, a company founder might like to greet every customer personally, offering a warm, enticing welcome that never flags or becomes stale. But, in an online world, this is impossible. So good UX writing should deliver the next best thing: a real, productive connection between the user and the business through the user interface.
UX writing helps deliver personalization. UX writing, in combination with the user’s personal information, can turn what could be an alienating or distancing human-computer interaction into an experience that you’ve tailored to the individual. For example, integrating appropriate purchase-history data into the user interface can make the customer feel valued as an individual.
UX writing boosts engagement. Together, clarity and personalization result in higher user engagement because customers feel that they are interacting with an organization to which they matter. Engagement impacts customer satisfaction and loyalty.
UX writing helps increase conversions. The net result of making your customers feel valued and well satisfied is a higher conversion rate. A hugely important factor in increasing conversions is ensuring that the user experience provides a clear call to action (CTA) and user journey. These conversions add value to your business—not only in terms of creating happy customers but also in terms of delivering commercial results.
To achieve and maintain good quality in your UX writing, you need to assess your content and revise it as necessary. Poor conversion rates and content performance measures can indicate the need for higher-quality UX writing. For your UX writing to deliver the experience users want and need, you must avoid some common errors that would hinder your UX writing process and mar the quality of the text you create.
5 UX Writing Mistakes to Avoid
Let’s consider some of the most common UX writing mistakes that you need to avoid.
1. Failing to Collaborate with Your Product Team
Product managers, designers, and developers are your subject-matter experts, so use what they know to help you craft a great user experience and avoid a less-than-optimal design.
Collaborate with them in structuring your UX writing to deliver an efficient customer journey. Work with them to ensure that the user’s wants and needs are always front and center. If there is extra information you could provide to add a little color, consider using progressive disclosure or providing links to that information so you’re not bombarding the user with content of varying degrees of relevance.
Listen to your design team when they advise you to avoid visual overload, which can be annoying and affect page-loading times—which, in turn, affect page-abandonment rates, as Figure 2 shows.
If users feel that you’re toying with them and are not directly addressing their needs, they’ll be quite willing to go elsewhere. So work with your team to create an engaging Web site or product. Be funny. Be human. But get to the point.
2. Sounding Like a Robot
The text that you write should sound like a human, not a robot. People enjoy human personalities. They do not text that sounds like one of the robots in Figure 3. Although Star Wars fans might like droids, even they would agree that, in most task scenarios, mechanical writing can come across as overly uniform and, thus, tedious. So try to inject some humanity into your UX writing. The best, most engaging UX writing is somewhat conversational. Getting preachy or overly sober can be off-putting.
When you’re writing Web content, one of the biggest offenders can be the need to inject search-engine optimization (SEO) terms. Some of them might not naturally occur where you need to insert them, resulting in awkward syntaxes. However, better SEO does not have to mean robotic phrasings. With some thought and a little flexibility, you can create human-sounding text.
A good tip: use pronouns a fair bit. Just the judicious use of we or you can inject a little humanity into your writing. Refer to your company using the personal pronoun we rather than using its full name all the time. A simple you can create a personal connection with readers, just as though the writer were in the room with them, talking directly to them. Plus, they can help you to avoid the use of passive voice, which usually lacks clarity.
Above all, resist the temptation to resort to a basic, bare recitation of facts or instructions. With a little imagination and creativity, you can inject a much-needed personal touch that scores with users.
3. Neglecting to Fix Grammatical and Typographical Errors
UX writers still need to maintain their adherence to grammatical standards. In fact, this should be one of your design principles. Why? Well, clarity for one thing. Using clear words is how you can impart accurate descriptions. But not just words. Punctuation, too. A poorly placed or missing apostrophe can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
Confusion can result from all manner of slips. For example, even the failure to use correct spacing can baffle your readers. Little slips can have big consequences. Probably the biggest negative outcome is how bad grammar and spelling errors reflect poorly on the business, as Figure 4 shows. If, despite proofreading, spelling or other mistakes get through to the finished product, the user experience will be suboptimal, and users may be far from favorably impressed. If you don’t fix such errors, users might think that a lack of quality is pervasive throughout the company. Clear up any confusion.
An important part of your design process is ensuring that the UX writing is an asset, not a drag on your company’s fortunes. It should enhance your company’s profile, not impair it. So you need to check, check, and check again.
If grammar isn’t your thing, run your text by somebody who lives and breathes the stuff. Or run a testing routine. There are a lot of them out there—for example, smoke testing vs sanity testing—but which one would be best or is a great deal comes down to personal preferences and the user’s needs for a particular application.
Difficulties can compound when an organization needs to translate UX writing into different languages. Make sure that, during the course of translation, focus and clarity still reign. Beware of using idiomatic speech patterns. If in doubt about your text, get a native speaker to look it over.
4. Not Consistently Ensuring Positive Connotations
One of the most annoying design issues to encounter in UX writing is negative design. Don’t spend time dragging your competitors down. Instead, celebrate the virtues of your product.
Error messages often provide good examples of a lack of positivity. Okay, they’re rarely causes for celebration, but you can make them slightly less deflating by phrasing them clearly or even in an imaginative way.
Do you know what common message really is not uplifting or inspiring? Yes, you’ve got it: “Oops, something went wrong.” This sounds bleak, is not the least bit informative, and lacks any hint of expertise. Somebody probably just grabbed it from someone else’s bad UX writing. Come up with something fresh, using phrasing that is unique to you. If you can tie your message text into your brand identity, even better.
How about these messages, for example? A virtual office phone supplier using the phrase “Sorry, wrong number.” Or a paint supplier saying, “Things seem to have gone a little off-color.” Or a travel agent’s site that says, “Looks like we needed a holiday. Apologies.” Or a chicken restaurant might use “Unclucky!” You get the idea.
5. Including Jargon or Ambiguous Writing
Always remember that a user might not be well versed in industry-specific language. Someone might be a casual visitor to a Web site, who is generally interested in learning more. People want to know about the products your site sells, in words they can readily understand. The liberal use of jargon or tech speak can distance your company from the user—especially if you use it without any prior explanation, as in Figure 5.
This type of bad user experience is the very opposite of what you should be trying to achieve. Use language that is immediately engaging and devoid of any mystery. This is why terminology management is such a vital part of UX writing.
Delivering a Better User Experience and ROI
Avoiding these common UX writing mistakes can increase the quality of your product’s user experience, help your company deliver a better return on its investment (ROI), and thus, improve your company’s overall business performance. By working to sidestep these common UX writing pitfalls, you can transform your product or Web site, making it a place where your customers are happy to spend time—and probably their money, too.
However, if you’re still struggling to deliver high-quality UX writing, think about how the best salespeople communicate with their customers. How do they achieve their service objective? They first seek to engage a customer, then move to close. But they have an advantage the UX writer doesn’t have. Your difficulty, as a UX writer, is that you can’t riff on the customer’s reactions to your words. Instead, you must make an informed guess about what they’re going to want.
UX writing doesn’t have to be prize-winning literature. It simply needs to get the job done—hopefully, with a little personality and charm. For all UX writing, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of the reader—the user. What does the user want? All users want ease of use. Plus, nobody wants to be bored. If you can deliver on both of these fronts, you’ve cracked it.
At Dialpad, a modern business-communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level, Jessica is turning conversations into opportunities through their cloud-collaboration software. Jessica’s expertise is in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. She has written for domains such as Bizmanualz and Guider.ai. Read More