The Power of Textual Content in UX Design

March 18, 2024

Digital experiences get better through user-centric design. Among the various elements that contribute to a seamless user experience, do not underestimate the role of textual content. When you use text strategically, it can improve the brand value of a product, Web site, or application whether by guiding users, conveying information, or establishing a meaningful connection with customers.

In this article, I’ll describe the art of harnessing the potential power of textual content in UX design to create compelling, memorable Web pages.

The Psychology of Content Consumption

Understanding how users process and interact with textual content is a crucial aspect of effective UX design. Textual content is the primary means of communicating with your users through a product or service. If text fails to engage users or convey the right messages, the entire user experience can suffer.

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Humans beings have evolved skills that let them scan text and rapidly extract its meaning and assess its importance. Studies show that the human brain can process text in as little as 100–200 milliseconds. This quick consumption of text emphasizes the need to craft clear, concise, and compelling text to capture users’ attention.

The psychology of content consumption depends mainly on people’s cognitive biases, of which UX designers should be aware. For example, the Von Restorff effect causes isolated or contrasting text to tend to stand out more. UX designers can exploit this effect in strategically highlighting key points or calls to action.

Similarly, the serial position effect causes people to remember the first and last items in a sequence more than those in the middle. Therefore, introductions and conclusions carry extra weight. Memorable opening and closing lines can help ideas stick with your users. Similarly, the first and last subheadings or points in textual content are more memorable.

Understanding human’s innate biases and factors such as reading patterns, scanning behaviors, and information recall gives UX designers the tools to craft text that resonates.

User-Centric Writing Principles and Best Practices

Armed with insights into how users consume content, UX designers and writers can apply the following principles and best practices for user-centric writing:

  • Put the user first. When creating text, always consider the user’s needs, goals, and mental models. Don’t fall into the trap of writing to please internal stakeholders or meet personal preferences. And never just look at your competitors’ designs and imitate them.
  • Emphasize clarity over cleverness. When conveying any information, be clear, direct, and unambiguous. Avoid unnecessary complexity, the use of jargon, and vague language whose interpretation imposes a greater cognitive load.
  • Be purposeful. Every word, sentence, and block of text should serve a definitive purpose—especially if its purpose it to guide the user. Ruthlessly cut anything unnecessary or distracting.
  • Define a consistent voice and style. Create a voice and style guide for your organization that establishes the tone and personality that textual content should convey. Consistency builds trust and familiarity.
  • Create a textual experience. The flow, rhythm, and even the formatting of text are part of the overall experience. Consider factors such as line length, font weight, whitespace, and hierarchy.

By focusing on users’ core needs and seeing text as an integral part of the user experience, UX designers can master user-centric writing.

Textual Content in Action

From theory to real-world applications, there are countless examples of practical text that enhances the user experience. Let’s consider a few of them.

Meaningful Microcopy

The small textual elements that are scattered throughout a user interface significantly influence user engagement and the ability to effectively guide users. Button labels, error messages, ToolTips, and other microcopy elements should always be clear, helpful, and contribute positively to the user experience. Crafting meaningful microcopy content enhances the user’s understanding, reduces frustration, and provides support throughout the user journey.

Effective Headlines and Titles

Writing compelling headlines and page titles is another powerful application of text that sets the tone for the user’s entire experience. Headlines represent the user’s first exposure to textual content and carry enormous weight in capturing the user’s attention, building trust, and delivering on the user’s expectations. While The New York Times feature “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” featured an immersive multimedia design, it initially gained readers’ attention because of its seductive title.

User Guidance Through Text and CTAs

Product tours and onboarding flows rely on clear, conversational text that guides new users through a service’s core functionality. Call-to-action buttons (CTAs) are a simple, but vital use of text that drives users toward fulfilling a Web site’s conversion goals. By utilizing action words, conveying meaningful value propositions, and even adding a dash of playfulness, UX designers can optimize CTAs and achieve significantly higher click rates.

These are just a few examples of some ways in which UX designers can cleverly leverage text to facilitate everything from navigation and driving action to comprehension and emotional resonance. Another example is real-estate content. Most real-estate Web sites have similar user interfaces and user experiences. Therefore, their text must be highly creative to make them unique. Through experience, UX designers and content authors understand the value of user research, which provides additional data and enables them to continuously optimize textual elements.

Integrating the Authoring of Text into the Design Process

Textual content should never be an afterthought. It is critical that you integrate the creation and testing of text throughout the entire UX design process.

Beginning in the discovery phase, UX designers and writers should collaborate in defining voice and style guides that capture the brand personality and principles for the use of text. These guides provide the foundation for content production across all design phases. It is essential that you incorporate copy into wireframes, prototypes, and mockups from the earliest stages rather than treating them as something that you can drop in at the end of the design process.

UX designers and writers must function as an integrated team, producing the visual design and authoring, reviewing, and refining the copy in an iterative fashion. As user feedback comes in, do A/B testing to optimize content. Changing headline copy by just a few words could meaningfully shift key metrics such as click-through rates.

Even during the production phase, UX designers should collaborate with engineers to guarantee that they understand parameters such as character limits, truncation rules, and responsive behaviors for blocks of text in the final product.

With copy and visuals evolving in tandem throughout the design process, based on user feedback, a Web site’s text becomes a fully realized element of the final design rather than just a last-minute consideration.

Next Steps

Whether you use text to deliver information, guide workflows, shape brand personality, or drive action, text is a foundational element of exceptional user experiences.

UX and user-interface (UI) designers can achieve the full power of textual content by understanding the psychology behind how users consume text, applying user-centric writing principles, studying best-in-class examples, and incorporating the development of copy throughout the entire design process. By taking a holistic approach, you can craft compelling, resonant experiences that engage and delight users.

Still, there are many more aspects of textual content to consider such as the impact of redundant information on all platforms. A clickable button should have the same meaning everywhere. Such consistency can simplify the brain’s processing time. Leveraging deep research on consistency across various platforms can help you take user-interface and UX design to a new level. 

Senior Content Writer at KAI Marketing Solutions Pvt Ltd

Cape Comorin, Tamil Nadu, India

Shalini SamuelAs a computer-science professional and a poet, I combine my analytical and creative talents in my work. In my current role as Senior Content Writer at KAI Marketing Solutions, I apply my academic training to produce high-quality technical writing and marketing content. I have a Master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering. I am also the author of three solo poetry collections and have contributed to anthologies worldwide. My diverse expertise in technology and artistic prose equips me with an innovative, multifaceted perspective on communications and writing.  Read More

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