I recognize that normally Friday is the day of the week I usually share what I’ve been reading and this week will be no different, but today (Thursday) I simply have to jump into a topic on which I have been reading a significant number of articles recently. A topic which has not only held me captive but also caused me to return to the concept repeatedly throughout the week. Curious? Let me give you a few more hints before we talk more about this particular topic (no peeking ahead!).

First, small words doesn’t necessarily refer to size, or even length. Consider a different interpretation, eg. brevity, or conciseness. Second, I have a very strong affinity for all things user-experience related; in fact I consider the ability to make a beautiful user-experience paramount to a successful product. I have always considered the UX (user-experience) to be solely-focused on the design and the process flow of the app, product, or website. This week I believe I was corrected in that somewhat erroneous thinking. Or better said, not that this thinking was wrong, but it was incomplete.

You’ve got to be at least slightly inquisitive now as to what I may be referring, have you gotten any ideas? I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. This week I have been thoroughly overtaken with the concept of UX Writing.

This idea of UX writing as an area of expertise was something I may have inherently understood and recognized at some level, but this week it was defined, exemplified and emphasized in a whole new way. This mental awakening was both eye-opening and thought-provoking and I simply had to share my thoughts on the subject with you. I hope if this is something you haven’t heard of that you find it equally compelling. if you are already aware of (or better yet implementing) UX writing in your business then I commend you for your forward thinking. Regardless, I hope you’ll find value in my highlights below.

Google Gets UX Writing

The first example I want to share with you was from a Medium article I read which gave several great real-life use-cases for UX writing. I would encourage you to read the full article if you find this topic interesting (and honestly, by the time we’re done — you should). In my opinion whenever I think about good end-user documentation I think of the work Google has done.

Google has come to realize the best way to see something adopted is to provide documentation and guidelines for what they believe to be best practices. This is what they have done in the past with Material Design, Android UI, and a wide variety of other projects. As a result their documentation is rich with examples and real-life implementations (including specific do’s and don’ts) . The best way to explore UX writing then is a specific example as Google defines the topic

Google Uses UX Writing and Microcopy

This single example perfectly outlines what Google believes is at the heart of good UX writing. Good UX writing is clear, concise, and useful.

Wait, back up, what is UX writing

I gave you the Google example at the start of the post for two reasons, first I thought this was so informative and useful regarding a practical application I simply had to share it first; second, I believe learning by example is one of the best ways to understand a difficult topic.

Here’s a good definition of what UX writing involves:
The topic of UX writing consists of three major components: the UX design & usability, wire-framing, and user interfaces. But this isn’t the only three specific areas. Influencing each of these areas and critical to UX writing as a whole is the ability to relate these concepts with the essentials of behavioral psychology and human decision-making. (Remember my post from last week? Interesting tie-in here).

The core principle is similar to what you’ll find in the work of UX design. The goal is to enhance the user experience, to make them feel delighted, and ultimately, to make them feel knowledgeable about your product (even if they’ve never used it before!) Anything that distracts from that goal is a problem to be addressed.

Microcopy: The concept of microcopy is at the heart of much UX writing, it refers to the short multi-word phrases or sentences that appear throughout a website, app, or product. Button text and links are the most common types of microcopy and the types most marketers typically focus on in A/B testing. But there are many, many more usages of microcopy all around us. And these little words are incredibly important.

Another example of UX writing, in the form of microcopy comes from Airbnb, who does the following on their homepage:

Airbnb Microcopy and ux writing example

The search bar prompts users to “Try Boston.”  This addresses 4 key concepts of microcopy as defined by Adobe XD. It is short (brevity), provides an example (context), encourages a search (action), and speaks to Airbnb’s brand (authenticity).

But, should I really care

I know you’re thinking to yourself, but is this something that really matters. Let’s be real, how big of a deal can something like this really make in the scheme of things? I’m glad you asked. I have read post after post throughout this week highlighting specific conversion increases as a result of proper UX writing. Examples like:

  • Changing Book Room to Check Availability lead to a 17% increased CTR
  • Changing Request a Quote to Request Pricing lead to a 161.66% increased CTR
  • Changing button text from Almost done to Review Order lead to a 39.4% increased CTR

Each of these two-word changes lead to massive increases in the Click-Through-Rate and eventual conversion of a site visitor to a sale. What a massive difference can be made by simply paying attention to the words we use. As I believe Google so aptly stated, clear, concise and useful.

Very quickly, let me add that these specific examples are not prescriptive (don’t go changing every “request a quote” button to “request pricing” and expect to see a CTR spike!) But they are indicative of the value found in good UX writing.

Now what

As I said in the beginning, my objective was to simply share a topic I have been fascinated with over the course of this last week and found resonated deeply with the UX goals I value. I hope if this is a new area for you it has also excited you and maybe encouraged you to dig in a little deeper into the topic and how it may help you. If you are already aware of these benefits, I hope this serves as a refresher for you and you’ll step back and look at ways you can continue to improve.

At the end of the day, I believe the best user experience occurs when all of the extra distractions are removed, the user is empowered, confident, and feeling good about themselves and the product. Just as I want to share things which excite me so businesses can find ways to be better, I want to share an experience with end-users that give them that same sense of power and control. Sometimes, those two little words, as small as they might be, can be the difference between a sale and a visitor.