What is a UX Writer? Writing for the User

A user experience (UX) writer creates copy for apps, websites, and other digital products that help users navigate the product. A UX writer might find the words for menus, definitions, buttons, labels, chatbots, and error messages, or the instructions to guide first-time users through a product—the small pieces of writing which is collectively called “microcopy.” An effective UX writer will create microcopy that is intuitive to users, in keeping with the product’s brand voice, and easily understood by most anybody, including people of different abilities, ages, gender identities, and backgrounds.

You can think of UX writing as a subset of UX design, just like user interface (UI) designers are a subset that focuses on the graphical portions of UX design. UX writers focus on the written bits—and there’s plenty of overlap with UX design. Like UX designers, a UX writer might test several versions of their work, conduct user research, and interact heavily with product teams as they find the best ways to create useful copy. They might use similar design tools like Figma or Sketch to plan and design copy.

See UX writing in action on a 404 page on Robinhood’s website:

Robinhood 404 page

And some microcopy from the Headspace app:

Headspace microcopy

UX writer salary and job growth

A UX writer in the US makes an average base salary of $108,807 as of January 2021, according to Glassdoor[1]. It is seen by some design circles as a trending job—Adobe has called UX writing a “booming field,” and UX Planet marked UX writing and editing as one of the top trends in the UX/UI field in 2019 [2].

UX writer vs other jobs

There are several jobs that might overlap with UX writering, like content strategists, copywriters, and technical writers. Generally, these other writing jobs are not part of the design process, and take place either before or after the design team plans the product. It’s worth noting that different places can have different expectations of the roles. Here are a few other ways UX writers differ from similar professions.

A content strategist creates or plans content based on a company’s needs and expectations. So while a UX writer might use guidelines laid out by a content strategist, they generally wouldn’t become involved in the bigger content strategy of the organization.

A technical writer’s job is typically to distill complex information into accessible language through items like instruction manuals, how-to articles, and reference guides. While UX writers and technical writers both have to make their end copy easily understandable, it’s rare for UX writers to put together lengthy pieces like manuals. UX writers tend to focus on the written aspects of a website or app users directly interact with.

Copywriters generally work for the marketing arm of a company. A copywriter might create copy for ads, social media posts, or contribute to coming up with marketing slogans. Like UX writers, a copywriter keeps the company’s brand voice in mind. But a copywriter will usually focus more on acquiring customers and spreading awareness of an organization.

How to become a UX writer

Breaking into the field of UX writing will likely mean having the appropriate skills, building a presentable portfolio, and having some experience under your belt. Here’s a detailed look at what that means.

1. Consider the skills you’ll need

Here are a few skills you might want to have as a UX writer.

  • Writing: Knowing grammar, spelling, and an in-depth understanding of tone and shades of meaning are essential, but UX writing is more than that. Good UX writing should be concise and clear, so as to give the user the least amount of friction as possible when using a product. Having some practice with UX-specific writing will be helpful to your job search. Trying to improve your writing? Think about taking some courses in effective communication through writing and design.

  • Research: Does a button in your website make a user want to click through, or turn them away? Does the language when users make mistakes on an app sound cold, or condescending? What demographics use this app? These are questions you might be able to ask through UX research. User testing, A/B testing, and card sorting are some of the research techniques UX writers can use to make sure a product works as intended.

  • Digital design programs: Though not all UX writers will use visual design toolkits, being familiar with some can boost your credentials for positions that will expect you to. Programs like Figma and Sketch may have free trial periods that will allow you to acquaint yourself with them, and give you time to create material you can use in a portfolio.

2. Create a portfolio

A portfolio is often a central part of applying for UX writing positions. This usually means building a simple website to showcase your past work and display what you’re capable of. Websites builders like Wix, Weebly, and Adobe Portfolio can be a good place to begin.

3. Get experience

Browsing job descriptions, you may find that hiring managers often ask for past experience with user experience writing. If you’re trying to beef up your UX writing resume, there are several routes you can take.

Starting in a tangential role, like copywriting, technical writing, or even UX design, can give you opportunities to practice UX writing. Courses in UX writing can introduce you to the fundamentals of UX writing and run through concepts like usability testing. They may also give you the opportunity to write your own copy that you can display in a portfolio. If you’re still looking for ways to put your skills into practice, you can also create mock websites or apps.

Get started with UX

A relatively new field in the design world, UX writing is nevertheless a sought-after skill by many companies. If you have a way with words, design sensibility, and appreciate good user experience, UX writing can be a good fit.

Looking for a broad introduction to the UX world? Consider the Google UX Design Professional Certificate. You’ll learn fundamental UX concepts like research and user-centered design.

Article sources

1. Glassdoor. “UX Writer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/ux-writer-salary-SRCH_KO0,9.htm.” Accessed May 5, 2021.

2. UX Planet. “2019 UX and UI Design Trends, https://uxplanet.org/2019-ui-and-ux-design-trends-92dfa8323225.” Accessed May 5, 2021.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button