You might not think about UX writing in your day-to-day life, but you're interacting with it more than ever before. From the remote for your television to the device you’re using to read this article, you’ve engaged with UX copy more than you probably realize.
Broadly, UX design, or user experience design, refers to the process used to create products that “provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users,” says the Interaction Design Foundation. “Good” UX design makes it efficient and enjoyable to use a product (think: a fitness app that makes it easy to count your steps, or a streaming app that just makes sense). “Bad” UX design might leave you feeling confused or frustrated by a product’s interface (think: that online banking app with redundant features, or your company’s outdated CMS that you avoid at all costs).
UX writing is the copy you come across on these apps and websites. It’s the text you see on buttons, menu options, instructions, you name it. These bits of text are referred to as microcopy, and though these details might seem small, they are mighty. A misplaced label or vague phrase is enough to wreak havoc on the entire user experience.
If you still can’t quite put your finger on what UX design or writing actually is, you’re not alone: CareerFoundry notes there is still a lot of confusion in the field itself, probably because it’s “extremely varied,” combining ideas and concepts from disciplines like psychology, business, and market research, just to name a few.
Here’s a real-life example to help you wrap your head around it — and see just how much of a difference thoughtful UX writing can make in a product’s ease-of-use, and ultimately, a company’s bottom line.
One word makes a world of difference
You’ve probably heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” — but when it comes to UX writing, a single word can be worth a whole lot more. This was the case for Kapwing, a collaborative platform for making images, videos, and GIFs. By changing the label of a button to read “export” instead of “publish,” the company upped daily video volume by over 10%, according to CEO Julia Enthoven.
Yesterday, we changed the label of a button from “Publish” to “Export.”— Julia Enthoven (@JuliaEnthoven) August 4, 2020
Today, our daily video volume is up nearly +10%.
Text matters. pic.twitter.com/gBI2Nl30KK
Clarity is key
Perhaps the shift from “export” to “publish” was more straight-to-the-point, or eliminated confusion for video editors; now, they didn’t need to wonder (or worry) if they were making their content live for the entire world to see, or simply exporting to their desktop. Either way, the simple change led to immediate results, which goes to show the power in choosing our words wisely.
“We've known for a long time that some users found the word ‘publish’ confusing and weren't sure how to download their videos, but we didn't realize how many people were confused by the language," Enthoven tells Thinknum. "One learning is that when you hear some complaints about website copy, there are many more confused people that are not complaining.”
“We also learned that matching the terminology of familiar systems is powerful. ‘Publish’ made sense to us, but Adobe Premiere and iMovie use the word "export" to refer to the same action. Matching conventional language was a better design than going against convention.”
Another hot button issue
A similar thought process went into the design of Amazon’s Prime Digital Music Store. Simon Pan, a San Francisco-based product designer, led the project and reported that choosing the text for a “little blue button” was the most controversial decision he and his colleagues had to make.
In his case study, Pan details the two text options for a rectangular blue button that, when pressed, would add a song to a user’s Prime Music library: It could read “$0.00” to emphasize that the specific song would come at no additional cost for Prime subscribers, or “+Add.” After rounds of user testing and much deliberation, the team decided on “$0.00.” Through their research, Pan and his team found that customers didn’t fully understand what the “+Add” button meant and assumed they would be charged money — the very opposite of what they were trying to convey.
On the other hand, the “$0.00” button gave users the impression that they would own the music. Not exactly what the team was going for, but it clearly told the user they wouldn’t pay an extra cent for the song. Pan also thought the button reading “$0.00” would make for easy pivoting should he need to make changes down the road. With that, the little blue button was born.
Does jargon really matter?
The need for concise, clear, and impactful UX writing is only going to grow as companies continue to increase their digital offerings. And now that we are working, shopping, and learning from home, digital products that are easy to use and understand will keep us afloat as the pandemic continues to uproot our lives. Think: teaching your grandparents how to use Zoom, or your showing your kindergartener how to submit their homework online. A seamless user interface could make our lives a whole lot easier.
Plus, the demand for UX writers is growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 3% year-on-year growth in demand for industrial designers between 2018 and 2028 — and this estimate was made long before the coronavirus. Now that we’re opting for online shopping rather than heading into brick-and-mortar locations, and relying on FaceTime and social media apps to replace face-to-face interactions, we’ll look to UX writers more and more to guide us in using the products that now guide our everyday lives.