Clarity banishes confusion
Great writing, like great design, is invisible. What makes things invisible? If it is clear. If it intuitive. If it is effortless. Effective writers write for clarity. If your content is not clear, then you are losing customers. Clarity in copy reassures users that they are on the right track and builds trust. This is doubly true for UX Writers given user behavior and context.
UX Writing is extremely contextual. Error states, call to actions, tool tips. The purpose of UX Writing is to inform and guide users within a user interface.
Imagine that you are drafting the copy for a button to lead users to view available roles at a company. Within the context of a mobile app, you have limited time (seconds, probably) and a tiny amount of space to guide and inform your user.
Effective copy in this scenario (small real estate and limited time to hold user’s attention) needs to be crystal clear.
Which button clearly informs and guides the user to view open careers?
They both go to the same place, but the explicit “See Careers” call to action (CTA) requires less effort on the users end. Copy can be cute and endearing, but if it impedes the user from completing a task, it can cause confusion and frustration.
Testing for Clarity
So how do you know when your content is clear? Test it. Ask your audience (people who will be using your site/app, not your sister or your mom) if the message is clear. Do they understand the purpose and intent of the copy? If not, ask them what would make it clearer. If they complete the task effortlessly with no questions asked, your content is good to go.
Scanning is the new reading
Keep it short and sweet. Users are on a mission and want to complete a task as quickly and efficiently as possible, all without having to think too hard.
Like Steve Krug (author of Don’t Make Me Think) says, write like you’re writing for a billboard. Your users are driving 80 mph and can only see a few words of copy without crashing.
Take all your copy and slash it in half. Then slash it in half again. Your users will thank you for it.
Eyes on the prize, keep the goal in mind
What is the purpose of your writing? What message are you trying to convey? Keep this in mind as you choose your copy. If it’s not useful, it’s fluff.
This screen effectively informs the user of next steps and options all with a few select words.
System Error, does not compute
Who is using your product? You can bet that 100 percent of the time they’re human. How do humans prefer to communicate? Through conversation.
Read your copy out loud. If it sounds like robot speak, it’s time to edit. If your copy sounds human, you’re on the right track.
Keeping the tone casual can lighten an otherwise unpleasant experience, such as landing on a page that doesn’t exist.
Written with one hand
Before you write any copy, know the voice and tone of the brand. If your product does not have a voice and tone styleguide or design system, now is the time to create one. A simple list of attributes describing voice and tone will do.
If the product already has an established voice, stay true to it. Consistency in voice, tone, and vocabulary throughout the experience builds trust, prevents confusion and makes for a cohesive, smooth experience.
Check out Mailchimp’s voice and tone styleguide for inspiration.
Can you tell that the below screens belong to the same brand? How would you describe the voice and tone?
Bonus C is for Cake
Thanks for reading! You now hold the knowledge to create some fantastical UX copy. Now go forth and be awesome.