When we browse a new website, we embark on a journey, and we definitely need guides. Just as we do on a real journey, we experience emotions with each tap, click, scroll, and swipe.
Good microcopy (a little piece of text on the interface) can help us navigate and do stuff on a website. It shows care and understanding about our feelings at every step of the user flow.
Airbnb shows its users what sort of message the host expects to receive.
What should I write? — we wonder. Airbnb focuses on traveler’s concerns and doubts. The box explains that travelers don’t have to tell the story of their life, but rather say hello to the host. The purpose of this form is to seem friendly. It’s the result of good UX writing.
As with most digital trends, big companies start it, and smaller ones follow it. Since the right microcopy can influence the business (i.e., increase profits), many enterprises are going to hire experienced UX writers.
During the Google I/O 2017, Maggie Stanphill, senior UX writer at Google, explained the possible business value of having UX writers on the team. After they changed Book a room to Check availability, the engagement rate increased by 17%.
“We found that it was far too committal at this stage in the decision-making process. So we switched it to Check availability, and what we found what that this was meeting the user where they were in their mindset. They were still considering rooms, and they wanted to understand what dates were available, and what prices were in that date range.”
It proves that the ability to understand user’s emotions and intentions to create the right microcopy can influence business profits.
The unit of the UX writer’s work is microcopy. It’s that piece of text on an interface that helps users do stuff. Microcopy can include:
- Navigation buttons
- Confirmation messages
- Error messages
- Privacy stuff
- Loading screen
- 404 error
Do’s and Don’ts of UX writing
Don’t let users make a mistake — or better, don’t use confusing language. Remove idioms and complicated words. If you’re targeting the global market, it might be challenging for users to understand differences like this:
Instead of Sign Up, it could be Register or Create an Account. Then everything would be clear.
Don’t use professional jargon. Ask yourself, Do my users know what those words mean? Unless you’re sure, change the copy until a kid can understand it.
Developers believe that everybody knows what an IP address is. Well, some users know that IP stands for Internet Protocol, but nobody has any idea what it actually is. Such messages make users feel dumb. Instead of a conflict between systems, they could’ve written The Internet isn’t working because blah-blah.
Be consistent. This one’s simple — don’t use synonyms. Pick a word, a stick to it. If each button of the registration reads Next, don’t write Proceed or Continue.
Inconsistency confuses users, and makes them think that clicking Next and Proceed might have different results.
Labels must be nearly invisible. This also has something to do with the simplicity of your language. If you can’t remember the text on a button — it’s good microcopy. Users shouldn’t focus on reading buttons on interfaces; instead, their actions should feel intuitive.
Unlike creative copywriting, UX writing deals with users after they have tried a product; UX writing’s primary task is to make sure every step of the user flow facilitates the user’s needs.
Last piece of advice: be empathetic. No witty word can help you increase your engagement and conversion rates unless you think hard about what your users feel and want at each step of their user journey. Your task is to guide them and be invisible at the same time. Try various products and ask yourself: what am I feeling? Is everything clear? If the answer is obvious, the microcopy is great. Take a look at it, learn from it.
PS. UX writing also helps to avoid any confusion and prevents concerns. This explanation on Netflix is a great example: