What is UX Copywriting?

UX Copywriting uses the principles of UX writing in marketing messages.

At a quick glance, this may seem absurd. Consider, however, that a customer may first bump into your brand through a tweet or Instagram post. That’s copywriting fused with UX.

  • Copywriting: The headline and content of the post.
  • UX: Meeting your audience where it hangs out.

Magic happens when UX principles meet copywriting. Let’s see how:

What’s UX Writing Anyway?

UX writing is like being the director of a digital movie. It’s all about the script—those tiny bits of text that guide you through apps, websites, and the like.

Think of the “Buy Now” button, the “Oops, something went wrong” alert, or even the email that celebrates your purchase. Some people call it “microcopy.”  When done right, it makes a huge difference!

The main goal of UX writing is to make sure users and the digital world get along.  UX writers, like me, want buyers to have a smooth, breezy, and joyful digital journey. And like most paths, there are some guideposts.

Here are the Golden Rules of UX Writing:

 

Clarity:

Clarity is keeping things simple. Using clear language makes it easy for users to know what to do.

Clarity is also ditching any jargon and long-winded sentences. (Especially in mobile apps where every word counts!)

 

Consistency:

Consistency is being logical and similar. For instance, If a button says “Join the Party” in one corner, that light-hearted playfulness should exist throughout the site.

From the tone to the terms, consistency helps your users feel at home with your brand.

 

Context:

Context provides users with the necessary information to complete a task. 

Take error messages, for example. If users get an “Oops, something went wrong message,” it should be followed by a “Do this to fix it” note.

Context also involves anticipating the user’s needs and providing them with the necessary information before they even ask for it – in fact this is the magical sweet spot of UX writing.

 

Accessibility:

Lots of different people use the internet. Accessibility tries to make it a place for everyone. From simple language to little things like alt text for images, it’s all about being inclusive.

Making content accessible helps users with disabilities. It improves the web experience for everyone – changing the digital landscape from being simply functional to fully enjoyable. This happens as writers, designers, and developers work together to create a smooth-as-silk experience.

What is UX Copywriting?

Think of it this way;

UX writers are like tour guides. They lead people through web pages showcasing important sights along the way. Their focus is to simplify and clarify the navigation and operation of a website or mobile app.  

UX Copywriters are like dance partners. They help users feel the music of the web.

Not only do they want the digital dance to be glitch-free (that’s the “functional” part), but they also want users to love every twist, twirl, and turn (the “emotional” experiences!)

Both UX writing and UX copywriting put the needs of the user before the needs of the company. By incorporating UX copywriting into your website, you help people see if your product is right for them. 

One of my favorite UX copywriters said:

UX copywriting is what happens when you combine user experience principles with the elements of conversion optimization and persuasion to create a marketing message focused on helping the user achieve their goal and that removes barriers so that forward momentum is effortless.

I like the part about “removing barriers so forward momentum is effortless.” Achieving this is what UX Copywriting rules are all about:

UX Copywriting Tenets:

Anticipation:

You know those websites that seem to  just know where you are and what you’re thinking? Not in a creepy, “this ad is following you around” way. But in a “sixth sense they get me” way.

This is the UX copywriting principle of anticipation in action.

UX copywriters are digital detectives. We figure out your audience’s online vibes, why they come to your site, and the nitty-gritty details that can make or break your customers’ experience.

We get pretty good at “reading your audience’s mind” because we know digital journeys with a brand aren’t just one-time events. They’re expeditions that start with a simple “hello”!

Empathy:

Empathy is seeing things through your user’s eyes and grasping their emotional triggers and glimmers. Glimmers are the opposite of triggers. Glimmers are micro moments that make people feel joy, peace, or gratitude.

While punching emotional triggers may make someone buy, harnessing emotional glimmers develops long-term relationships.  This means taking off your sales-y marketing hat, and really caring about your customers. 

Empathetically caring about your audience means you don’t appeal to everyone. But you do resonate with the people who become repeat customers, while the misfits gently drift away.

Transparency:

Honesty’s the best policy, right? Well, that’s the golden rule for UX copy too! Your audience wants to know:

  1. Their Data Matters: If you ask for certain info, let them know why and what you will do with it. Also ensure it’s kept secure and let them know how it’s kept safe.
  2. Behind Your Brand Curtain: No hide and seek! Help your customers see all they want to know—returns, shipping, and nitty-gritty details of products—should all be quickly findable. 
  3. You use Real Talk in Marketing: When you make a promise, make sure you’ve got the proof. Backing up claims isn’t about tooting one’s own horn. Proof includes insights from studies, thumbs-ups from other users, or discussing the the unique aspects (and hey, even the limitations) of what’s on offer.

Some Examples

There’s a lot of good UX copywriting on the web. Below are three examples – two “do this” and one “avoid this.”

User experience is not pass/fail endeavor. It is constantly evolving.  So learn from these examples. 

 

“Do This” Anticipation & Empathy Example

Capitol Autobody knows the trauma of being in a car accident. They’ve got the empathy and anticipation down pat.

They understand customers are confused and scared when they come to the website. With before/after pictures of wrecked cars, empathetic language, FAQs, and their credentials showcased, this company shows they get their customers.

They also put their contact info in several places – because people are rattled and won’t see the contact info in the top right corner.

A couple of changes would make this home page even better – such as the telephone number in the main paragraph above the fold, and using black text on a white background. 

“Avoid This “Lack of Empathy Example

A graphic similar to this one was trending on social media a while ago. It was probably written for conversion, but clearly lacks empathy. 

If you’ve ever battled with your weight, this ad makes you feel ashamed. And that’s not cool.

Fear and shame, are two emotions that are overused in marketing messages. Fear has a place – a tiny one – but to develop long-term customers, use it sparingly. Shame is just bad juju.

Scarcity, or FOMO, is considered negative as well. But it’s a real circumstance. You have limited products; digital deals have ending times; there are only so many hours in a day to work. Those are legitimate sales sparks.

“Do This” Transparency Example

Patagonia values transparency. They were one of the first companies to highlight this strength.

They sell stuff so obviously they want customers to buy – AND – they have a product recall notice at the top of their site. Go figure!

That’s a bold, transparent move – to acknowledge a weakness right up front.

Patagonia recently went through an ownership change. They’ve been straightforward and talked about how that will affect their customers. Something else they do for transparency is at the bottom of every page – FAQs and an accessibility notice.

Be transparent like Patagonia. Yes you might not appeal to everyone. But you will create raving fans who buy again and again.

Testing - a principle that makes every company better.

As a UX Strategist and Copywriter, I pride myself in understanding my clients’ customers. But . . .  sometimes I’m wrong. 🌞

How do I know I’m wrong? By conducting tests.

These tests aren’t the “True/False” or “Choose the Correct Answer” tests you had in school. These tests are things like A/B split testing to see which headline gets more clicks. Or user task completion testing where you see where users hesitate because something is unclear. 

Testing is a principle of both UX writing and copywriting. 

It’s important to set up periodic tests because stuff changes – like the meaning of words. And even mind readers, like UX copywriters, can’t predict that!  

And in being fully transparent, I’m a UX Copywriter. So if you want to improve the UX for your business, contact me.