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April 24, 2023

UX writing: what is it?

For more than twenty years, the digital sector has given priority to design over copy. Writing was the “task” that was relegated to the end of a digital project. The very expression UX writing only appeared, for the first time in France, in 2018. However, UX writing makes it possible to guide the user at each stage of the journey. By giving them the right information at the right time, we encourage them to perform the actions we want them to do. And when you know that the short-term memory of a human brain cannot exceed seven items (all types of content combined), knowing how to write for UX makes sense. 

What is UX Writing?

UX Writing: Definition

UX writing refers to writing adapted to the “user experience” (UX). It is a branch of user experience centered around content, and it is complementary to UX design.

The rise of UX writing

UX writing can be applied to all kinds of digital projects: websites, mobile applications, interactive terminals, etc. However, each digital solution induces different behaviors among its users. The various usage scenarios are therefore exponential. It is from this observation that UX writing has gradually developed. Business needs have increased, UX writing techniques have become more professional and the profession of UX writer was born.

UX writing: specificities

We do not write the texts of a mobile application in the same way as the chapter of a book. Why not? Because the readers of the two media behave very differently. Indeed, the screens make reading more complicated. The internet user may be bothered by a reflection, pop-ups, notifications... their concentration is disturbed.

In addition, 92.1% of internet users are mobile users. This word refers to people who browse the internet via their mobile phone. The list of potential inconveniences is therefore still growing: reduced screen size, non-responsive sites, too long loading times… All these inconveniences greatly affect the user experience (UX). The mobile user may then be tempted to leave your site.

🔍 To avoid this harm to our customers, we test their user interface. If you too would like to benefit from an audit, discover our offers.

These constraints also apply to digital equipment installed in public places. Tactile, interactive or video kiosks are no exception. The user must, in addition, ignore the noise and the movements that surround them to concentrate on their interaction with the machine. The task is not easy. Writing the texts of digital solutions really requires a specific approach.

What are the benefits of UX writing?

Marketing departments with UX writers on their teams have a leg up on their competition. Indeed, this skill is a real advantage for end users but also for companies.

Accompany the user in their journey

Specifying or confirming an action, providing information or instructions… These exchanges with the user, throughout their journey, considerably improve their experience. This is the primary objective of the UX writer. Moving from one stage to another, in the user journey, requires improving interactions with the consumer by creating a coherent dialogue. To do this, it is necessary to optimize:
  • usability;
  • accessibility;
  • the relationship with the user;
  • the harmonization of the course.

🔍 At Ferpection, we carry out user tests for our customers' solutions. Among the problems we encounter most often, we note a lack of:
  • clarity of explanations;
  • interest in the services offered;
  • homogeneity of the journey.
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### Start with why: improve your company's Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

In addition to the obvious interest for the end consumer, UX Writing is also a formidable tool for organizations. Indeed, it makes it possible to increase the performance of several objectives and indicators:
  • engagement rate (degree of user interaction with content);
  • conversion rate (percentage of consumers carrying out an action);
  • retention rate (number of loyal customers over a given period);
  • completion rate (proportion of people going to the end of the course).
Depending on the type of digital medium, optimizing these key performance indicators (KPIs) comes down to increasing the number of leads, sales and customer retention. A real boon for organizations!

How to write for User Experience (UX)?

The constraints to which the texts must submit are closely linked to the host medium (website, mobile application, interactive terminal, etc.). Nevertheless, several good practices, from web writing, have already proven themselves.

Make sentences short

Ideally, they should be less than fifteen words. However, depending on the type of support, a tolerance may be observed. The "About" page of a website, for example, may contain more extensive text. Try, however, not to exceed twenty-five words.
The UX writer must question the conditions under which the consumer will read the text. They determine the screen size and environment. Thus, the reading comfort is higher on the screen of a computer, in their office, than on the small screen of a public place.

Use simple words

Your sentences must be understandable to an eight-year-old child. Avoid jargon. There is a good chance that your user will be in a hurry, even stressed (especially if they are outside). They have no time to think.
Adopt a direct style
Prioritize the active voice. The primary objective of UX Writing is to guide the user in each of their actions. So opt for a style that calls for action. Also, avoid negatives.

Be concise

If a person is on your interface, chances are they are looking for something. Give them what they want as soon as possible. Do not tease, you risk losing the visitor.

Air out your text

As we have seen, your consumer is probably in uncomfortable reading conditions. The surrounding distractions (noise, environment, notifications, etc.) are such that their concentration is constantly interrupted.

Make it easier for them by making your text airy. Ban overly long paragraphs, skip lines, use titles and subtitles, bulleted lists... Your visitor must be able to find the answer to their question by simply "scanning" the screen.

🔍 These UX writing rules also improve user accessibility and inclusiveness. Strong values ​​for Ferpection, which created the concept of UX for Good. Discover our webinar on UX for Good!

Prefer warm areas

Thanks to eye-tracking techniques, we know which parts of the screen attract the eye of the user. You might as well take advantage of it by placing the essential information there. Two reading patterns stand out.
  • The F-shaped reading pattern: heatmaps show that the eye is primarily attracted by the banner at the top of the page. Then, it goes down on the left, lingering on the titles and the beginnings of paragraphs. It is therefore essential to work well on the title and to put the most important information first.
  • The Z-shaped reading pattern: this reading direction is more specifically adapted to visual communication media such as posters or images. However, it can be useful to know it, especially if you put the printable versions of your documents on your website. Eye tracking studies have shown that the reader's gaze lands on the top left. It then moves to the right, then “sweeps” center from top right corner to bottom left corner. Finally, the reader's eye scans the medium one last time laterally to the right. The UX Writer must therefore place the most important words on this Z-shaped trajectory.
Velijko Zajc poster for the Kustendorf Festival illustrating the direction of reading in Z. Source:

Historically overlooked and neglected, UX writing is gradually becoming more widely recognized. The development teams understood that adding the texts at the end of a project, hastily and without any real strategy, led to wobbly results. User-centric texts are intended to enrich the user experience. The UX writer must therefore be able to think, from the ideation phase, about the best way to achieve this.
Moreover, UX writing should not be seen as an isolated discipline, but as part of a whole. It is conditioned by the context and the dynamics of the journey. To choose the right word on a button, you need to know the step before and the one after. Finally, the UX writer must always keep in mind the action towards which they wish to lead the user.

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Thibault Geenen

Thibault Geenen

Thibault is fascinated by the power of UX, especially user research and nowadays the UX for Good principles. As an entrepreneur, he's a huge fan of liberated company principles, where teammates give the best through creativity without constraints. A science-fiction lover, he remains the only human being believing that Andy Weir's 'The Martian' is a how-to guide for entrepreneurs.

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