UX Copywriting uses the principles of UX writing in marketing messages. At first, this may seem absurd.
Consider, however, that a customer’s user experience starts when they initially encounter your company or product. That first experience may be from a social media post – which is often a marketing message.
Let’s start with some basic UX writing principles and see how UX copywriting incorporates them into marketing messages.
What is UX Writing?
User experience (UX) writing is crafting the words and phrases that appear throughout a digital product or service, including apps, websites, etc. It includes instructions, purchase confirmation emails, button labels, and error messages — which is why it’s sometimes called “microcopy.”
UX writing works with UX design to guide people through using a product so they have a positive and effortless user experience.
The aim of UX writing is to help people accomplish their tasks efficiently through clear, concise, and conversational language. Information is scannable, understandable, and provides the necessary information for users to take action.
UX writing plays an essential role in shaping the user experience of a product or service. It directly impacts how users perceive the brand, how they feel about the product, and whether they will continue using it. Good UX writing can improve usability, increase engagement, and boost customer satisfaction.
Principles that Guide UX Writing:
Clarity is an essential principle of UX writing. Copy should be easy to read and understand. Therefore, UX writers avoid using technical jargon, complicated sentences, or confusing language that might frustrate or confuse users.
Instead, they use simple words and short sentences to convey their message. Clarity also involves using active voice, which is more engaging and easier to understand than passive voice.
Clarity is vital for mobile apps as word choices must be concise due to space restrictions.
Consistency helps users understand and navigate tasks effortlessly. It means using consistent terminology and language to avoid confusing users.
For example, if a button label says “Sign up” on one page, it should say the same thing on all other pages. Consistency also involves consistent tone and voice throughout a user’s experience with the product.
Context provides users with the necessary information to complete a task. Therefore, copy should be relevant to the user’s current situation and provide information to complete a task.
For example, an error message should explain why something went wrong and provide a solution to fix the problem. Context also involves anticipating the user’s needs and providing them with the necessary information before they even ask for it.
Accessibility means the copy is inclusive and accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities. UX writers use simple, straightforward language and avoid using slang or colloquialisms.
UX writers also consider the needs of users with disabilities. For example, they create alt text for images and icons. This simple consideration enables visually-impaired users with screen readers to access the content.
Making content accessible not only helps users with disabilities but also improves the overall user experience for everyone.
A UX writer collaborates with designers and developers to create a seamless user experience. By focusing on the words and phrases that users encounter, UX writers can help make a product or service that is not only functional but also enjoyable to use.
What is UX Copywriting?
As stated above, UX writers craft words to help people use a product so they have a good “functional” experience. Their focus is to simplify and clarify the navigation and operation of a website or mobile app.
UX Copywriters want people to have good functional and emotional experiences. They create “functional” messages. And they also write content to help people have good “emotional” experiences.
UX Copywriting helps people self-select that the product or service is for them before they buy and supports them after they buy as they use the product.
Both UX writing and UX copywriting put the needs of the user before the needs of the company.
Principles of UX Copywriting:
UX Copywriters anticipate where the reader is when they encounter a company/product. This might be on social media, from a Google search, or from a link to a website.
This includes considering the mindset of the user, what prompted them to come to the website (or download the app), and what goal they want to achieve. It includes anticipating barriers to moving forward — such as information they need and what may be confusing to them.
Anticipation knows that the user experience begins with the first interaction between a person and a company and lasts throughout the buyer’s journey.
Empathy is seeing things through your user’s eyes. How can you connect with them and what will create a disconnect?
Empathy works in tandem with anticipation to create the best user experience. It can be difficult to take off your marketing hat, business hat, or move-through-this-process hat, and really get into your user’s emotional mind.
What mix of emotions is your reader feeling – scared, frustrated, anxious, excited, happy, joyful, and what else?
Empathy comes from that deep place of wanting to help someone improve their life. And it speaks to the “right” user. Contrary to what you may think, not everyone is your perfect customer. And having empathy will let the “wrong” customer go.
Being transparent in your copy is three-fold:
- Being transparent about customer information. Why you ask for certain info and what you will do with it.
- Having transparency about your company. Placing your shipping, return, and other policies in an easy-to-find place; including manufacturing methods, all ingredients, sizes, colors; and any recalls, etc.
- Transparency in your marketing messages. This is providing back up for every claim you make. Whether that claim is that you provide a great experience or that your product is worth the price.
Note: The justification for claims you make can come from studies you’ve conducted, or social proof, or discussing ingredients/processes that make your product “better.” It also includes acknowledging any shortcomings your product has, such as not being a great fit for certain people.
There are tons of examples of good UX writing on the web. Below are three examples of UX Copywriting:
Example of Anticipation
This autobody company gets what it’s like to have just been in a car accident. They show this through their empathetic language. They understand how flustered people are after being in a car crash.
They have great visual examples and credentials, as well as their contact info in several places on the site. (Because people who are rattled 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.
User experience is not pass/fail endeavor. It is constantly evolving and this site does a great job with anticipation and empathy.
Example of Lack of Empathy
The auto body site above is a good example of empathy (as well as anticipation.) So the graphic used below is a bad 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 may make you feel ashamed. And that’s not very empathetic.
Fear and shame, are two emotions that are overused in marketing messages – in my opinion. They have their place (a tiny place at that), but to develop long-term customers, instead of just having a bunch of one-off sales, they should not be the primary motivators in sales messages.
Scarcity is another “negative” emotion that is often used in marketing messages. Scarcity is a real thing – you only have so many products or you will only be offering a digital deal for a limited time. That’s perfectly legitimate.
What is not a good user experience is when this is overused or misused.
Example of Transparency
The company of Patagonia is one of the first companies to show transparency as a value. Obviously they want customers to buy clothes and other products. Observe, however, they have a product recall notice at the top of their site. That is a bold, transparent move. They are acknowledging a weakness right up front and trying to deal with it.
They also have an accessibility notice and FAQs in the footer.
Patagonia recently went through an ownership change and have included how that will affect their customers and mission on their site.
Testing - a Principle for UX Writing and Copywriting
Testing is a principle of both UX writing and copywriting. UX copywriting includes A/B split testing and user task completion testing. Testing is one of those things that is an ongoing process.
It’s important to set up periodic tests because society changes. The words we use evolve and companies focused on providing good customer experiences know this and adapt accordingly.
And in being fully transparent, I’m a UX Copywriter. So if you want to improve the UX for your business, contact me.