You've probably heard of UX Designers, Product Managers, User Researchers, Marketing Directors, Creatives, and plenty more I’m sure... but have you ever heard of a UX Writer? Google sure has, but I’m going to guess that you haven’t. And that’s a shame considering its fundamental contribution to all those talented people listed above. But there’s no need to wallow in sorrow. In this post, the Flip Script Media team is excited to share some insight about this little-known field that is involved in much of the UX design process. You might say it’s like the body's central nervous system: when it’s doing its job well, everything else runs smoothly, everything feels right, and everyone looks good; but if it’s neglected, it can weigh the entire team down. And, when things go awry, you become numb and blinded by the actual truth. While we're on the subject, let me dish it out to you: language is an integral part of the UX design process. Nowadays, too many businesses consider language as an afterthought, and it's high time we do something about it as it affects product design, communications, marketing strategies, branding and image, community management, even social media, chatbots, and conversational spaces! For such a little-known field, that's a BIG list.
In our mobile-first, soon to be a conversational-first reality, language is the ultimate game changer. With Facebook's latest AI announcement, and Elon's latest business venture, Neuralink, big and small companies are scrambling frantically to keep up with a landscape that is undergoing some of the most radical changes the marketplace has ever seen. This is a challenge for everyone: bigger companies often have large departments that are entrenched in their old ways and are slow to change; smaller companies can be more nimble, but they may be hesitant to gamble their more limited budgets on untested strategies. But this situation also creates some fantastic opportunities––and here’s where UX Writing comes in.
Whether it’s brand storytelling, ASO, push notifications, CTAs, in-app copy, website wording, blog articles, onboarding emails, social media, or even conversational spaces, UX Writing is used to connect with users, at every stage of the user experience via user-facing touchpoints. With clear, consistent, personalized, and contextual messaging, language can be used to strategically enrich user experiences in a way that transforms brands, helps businesses grow, inspires change, and makes the world a better place.
Traditional marketing just doesn’t work. The days of making a TV commercial to tell your audience that “Super-White Brand Laundry Detergent” is the brand ALL YOGA MOMS TRUST are long gone. Your audience is bombarded with pushy, meaningless, marketing messages all day from all sides, which is why they’ve gotten so good at ignoring them. Today, brands have to focus on engagement and building quality relationships with each customer in a way that's both meaningful and valuable. That’s right, each customer. Sounds hard, right? It is––it takes a lot of careful thought, planning, and attention––but it’s certainly possible, and it IS hugely rewarding. Trust us, that’s the core of our business! How do we do it?
One deceptively simple answer: UX Writing. To build lasting relationships with users, businesses must communicate trust and anticipate customer needs, as well as utilize Smart Messaging in contexts that are meaningful, and they absolutely must personalize the experience with communicative competence. This breaks down to analyzing users’ emotional and rational behavior across different contexts and understanding the effects of various communications on the overall user experience. As these patterns evolve and change over time, businesses must continue to learn from their customers through their continued interactions. When customers consistently engage in clear, relevant, and communicatively competent interactions with a business or brand, they develop trust, and an invaluable, long-lasting brand loyalty can grow. In a nutshell:
Communication is the medium
Copywriting is the material
UX Writing is the vision
See what we mean about UX Writing being at the heart of all of your marketing strategies, customer relationships, and branding efforts? Now let's get started. Here's how to do it:
Searching, Researching, and Positioning
Chances are you already have a pretty good idea of how you fit into your marketplace, such as how your product or services are differentiated and what unique value you offer your customers. But as important as that entrepreneur’s gut-instinct is, it’s not enough––research is essential. Creating a well thought-through strategy for market research may make you consider aspects of your positioning that hadn’t occurred to you before, and it’s likely to produce results that you don’t expect. Each stage of your research––from planning to data collection and analysis, to interpretation––will result in valuable information that will help you fine-tune your marketing strategy and begin to develop meaningful interactions with your customer base.
We’ve created a checklist of the areas you may want to consider in your research:
Who are your competitors? How are you different? How do they differentiate themselves from each other?
What marketing strategies are your competitors using? What avenues are they not exploring? Are they using brand-specific terminology? If so, how does the market react to this?
Who are your competitors’ customers? How are they different from your target demographic?
How do your competitors’ customers perceive them? Is that different from how you want your customers to perceive you? What type of language is being used to convey this?
Do your competitors position themselves as “experts” in a particular area? What don’t they know? What type of wording are they using to communicate this?
What are your goals? What are your competitors’ goals?
What are your competitors’ pain points? What could be yours?
What are you trying to achieve with this product or service? How do you bring value to your customers?
How should you use language in this particular context? What language “fits” in this context and what doesn’t?
What words are your customers using in association with your product or a similar one?
Understanding Context & Understanding Your Users in Context
Next, you need to research your target audience. User research is critical because you communicate best with someone you know well. Remember, language is contextual. Your goal is not only to understand the movements and motivations of different types of users generally, but to know their patterns through different use cases as well. For example, every time I use my IGA grocery store app, I’m the same person with the same tastes and budget. However, on weekends when I’m planning a dinner party, I will use my app differently than when I’m trying to find a quick dinner solution by combing through the sales flyer tab on a random Tuesday night. These different scenarios (“Dinner Party Planning” and “Last-Minute Tuesday”) are examples of what are known as use cases. Each kind of user will interact with your service, app, or website through a handful of distinct use cases, and you need to know what those are and how users behave in such circumstances. With this knowledge, you'll be in a position to anticipate responses and use contextual triggers and cues to bring contextually personalized value with Smart Messaging. In addition to knowing your user and defining their use cases, you need to know how to “talk their language.” And no, we don’t just mean English! We mean you have to know how to match the way you use words to create a flow that comes across as natural and local. Your message should always reflect communicative competence if you're looking to connect with users in a nuanced, precise, and authentic way. It's about understanding the semantics and pragmatics of contextualized language. To start, you will need to establish user personas based on your research and contextual cues. This information will allow your team to create personalized experiences that take into consideration socio-cultural and demographic factors, as well as how tech and products like yours are used in region-specific markets. Armed with all this interconnected information, you’ll be able to consider language in its full context and produce copy that is personalized, localized and appropriate to each situation.
Here are a few factors to consider that may help you learn more about your users:
Demographics: sex, age, location, employment, relationship status... Who are your users?
Interests: habits, activities, hobbies, sports... What do they like?
Behavior: device type, technology choices, app usage, social media channels, locational usage... How do they use technology or your product? When do they use it? Where are they and what are they doing when they use it? How do they use it?
Contextualized demographic behavior: local trends, local technology choices, engagement levels, usage trends... What local trends might influence the way your product is consumed or used? How are users in context "X" using your product? How do they engage with technology, and why?
Linguistic: verbal expressions, wording, emoji usage, language in context... What terminology is being used by your users in context in relation to your product? Is it similar across to other contexts? What stands out? Are you engaging with them in a meaningful way?
These examples represent a basic level from which you can start. Any one of these categories can become increasingly specific, as is required for your particular demographic niche. This is vital research that will help you scale personalization and ultimately leverage responsible anticipatory design practices: the unicorn of user interaction.
Voice, Tone, and Contextual Personalization
The vital finishing touch of UX Writing is contextually personalized voice and tone. Think of voice as a representation of personality and tone as a mood the personality takes on in a particular context.Personality remains constant, but mood will fluctuate based on context. Voice and tone are important for two reasons. First, all communication with users and customers must come across as authentic, personalized, and from a human being - not a robot! - so a natural but consistent way of speaking is required. Second and most importantly, it’s through voice and tone that you can convey the personality of your brand. This is how your user gets to know you, so that you can develop a relationship that’s reciprocal. How you “speak” reveals everything about your brand DNA: corporate culture and philosophy, attitude, image, purpose, goals, you name it. It should all come together to present a coherent and relatable personality.
“The value of a media company will be predominantly tied up in its brand; the amount of incremental revenue or reach that content can derive from being associated with that company. This will not depend upon another layout redesign or logo refresh. When content is atomized and accessed far from the publisher’s site, the content itself must act as an expression of brand. Its style must be a fingerprint, an instantly recognizable promise of quality that can inform, inspire or engage."
You may find that your brand’s voice takes on a more defined character over time - this is great! In fact, novelists will tell you that when they are creating a character in a fiction it takes time, imagination, and dedication for that personality to fully emerge and take on depth. Once it does, however, characters have a way of taking on a life of their own, which is where you must draw the line to make sure you're not taking it too far. For example, Slack has mastered voice and tone and they use it to engage in a clear, consistent, and cohesive way that reflects their unique brand personality. (And, they do it perfectly, from end to end.)
Because consistency and coherence are essential to sustaining the projection of your brand personality, voice must remain consistent across all mediums: ASO, push notifications, onboarding emails, website copy, blog content, social media, conversational spaces... everything! Tone, on the other hand, will adapt to context and use case. (Getting confused? Don’t sweat it! Read more about voice and tone inMailChimp’s Style Guide or try the exercises laid out in theirVoice & Tone Guide). If it sounds like a lot to keep in mind, it is! The words you CHOOSE to use when engaging with your users are a critical part of your overall business strategy and they deserve your every attention, at every level. Be sure to incorporate UX Writing to your overall UX Design strategy and allow UX Writers to work with the Design team and Product Owners at the very beginning of your creative process! (I swear... it makes all the difference in the world!)
It doesn’t end there... Although you may have done your fair share of research prior to writing, you have to test it out in context. (Unless you’re a mindreader, in which case, just do that! And, can we borrow you?) For us non-telepathic mortals, we don’t want to just throw our content into the universe and pray it works. At the end of the day, we have to validate whether it's working or not. How to do it? Engage with your community and ask your power users for input. Another idea is to run a push notification campaign with some A/B testing to validate linguistic/contextual responsiveness. For example, do users react more positively when there is an emoji in the push notification, as opposed to when there isn’t? Do users prefer an email headline that is personalized and includes their name? Look at the data, crunch the numbers, and find patterns! Compare which ones generate more leads, or which ones increase open and click-through rates to validate your choices. A lot can be learned from trial and error, but if you don't try anything you'll never know.
Unselfish Anticipatory Design
All good, lasting relationships are based in mutual respect and reciprocity. Today’s savvy shopper knows that companies collect data, usually using it to help them "sell" more products. So what value are your customers getting back from you? According to a wise old Canadian aphorism, “even babies raised by wolves, they know exactly when they’ve been used”* - and no one likes it.
Enter: Unselfish Anticipatory Design! This approach provides no-strings-attached benefits for the sake of building trust and brand value with customers. Consider a telecom company that texts a customer with a friendly suggestion to suspend their international add-on package while they’re not using it, thereby saving them money than they otherwise would have wasted on a product they don’t currently need. This is altruistic take that builds trust and brand loyalty. It’s also a great example of how a brand can create empathy, one customer at a time with user-specific interactions. Consider Bumble's strategic voice and tone, and notice how they've implemented it into their overall UX design strategy. Given their primarily female user base, they've incorporated a fun, playful, friendly, flirtatious and feminine voice to their branding. Their word choice reflects this in ALL of their communications and it works. The reason it does, is because they understand who they're talking to, the context in which they're engaging in, and they use language in a way that's relatable and fun. They know just what to say to pull at those heart strings, and embody female empowerment at their core. They've done a remarkable job!
So, can you think of any ways that your business can anticipate its customers needs and provide a welcome yet unexpected value? If you can, you’ll more than likely set yourself apart from the crowd, asBernardo Rodriguez explains:
“Understanding individual users through data is the jumping-off point to successful anticipatory design. While most companies recognize this need, few have adopted anticipatory tactics into their experiences.”
Big or little, your words always matter! Words are an opportunity to connect. Whether you're writing a fun CTA or crafting copy for your app's changelog, make sure that you use every opportunity to its fullest. Each and every little word choice reveals your personality and sets the tone for the relationship to follow. Weigh each word/emoji with care to leave a lasting impression and memorable experience.
At the end of the day, UX Writers are a lot like user representatives and brand ambassadors, all at once. It’s our job to have in mind the bigger picture while being able to divvy it up into small portions, so that each team can understand the part they play in contributing to their company’s broader goals and message. This requires an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the cross-organizational roles and how each applies to the user in context. As a UX Copywriter, I take pride in my work knowing that my wording has a positive impact on the overall user experience. Above all, I do what I do because I love it. (And, I love knowing that my work makes people smile!)
Well, that's all for today, folks! Thanks for reading my first UX Writing article. I sincerely hope that you've enjoyed it and that it has brought value to your work, or changed your perception of UX Writing. Feel free to give it a share and stay tuned for more UX Writing articles in the coming weeks! If you have any questions, please don't be shy. Hit me up in the comment section below, or shoot me an email! Thanks again! Have a wonderful day! 😀