What is UX writing, what is its purpose, and what type of copy improve the user experience? Find the answers to these questions and learn the UX writing basics.

UX writing for beginners: opening Pandora’s box

The myth of Pandora is one of the best-known myths in Western culture.

The main argument of the myth is that the first mortal woman, Pandora, out of curiosity, opened the box that the god Zeus gave to her husband, Epimetheus. Immediately afterwards, various evils emerged from the box and inhabited the world. The only thing left in the box was hope.

Using this myth, the ancient Greeks tried to explain the origin of all evil in the world. However, I’ll use it in this post for another purpose.

I’ll turn to the Greek myth to explain what UX writing is and where to apply it to avoid — or control — some of the “evils” that inhabit the digital world.

Would you like to know more about this topic? Keep reading!

UX writing for beginners: from metaphor to reality

Pandora’s box is the metaphor for an enormous number of surprises or unexpected consequences a specific decision may cause.

Let me give you an example.

Imagine you decide to download and install a mobile application.

At the moment you make the decision, a company that developed the application will give you a particular (digital) Pandora’s box. However, the company won’t warn you not to open it. On the contrary, its marketing copy will encourage you to be curious enough to open the box, download the application, and install it on your mobile device.

Once you install the application, you might find some positive or negative surprises:

  • In the best of the cases, the goods will come out of Pandora’s box (ease of use, clarity, and customer support).
  • In the worst of the cases, the evils will escape out of it (difficulty of use, confusion, and lack of support).

The goal of the company that developed the application is to ensure that, when you start using it, you meet the goods and avoid the evils.

  • The goods result in user satisfaction. If the use of the app is straightforward, users will be more likely to continue using it.
  • The evils result in user frustration. If it becomes too complicated to use the app, users will be more likely to uninstall it.

However, it doesn’t depend on you what you’ll face once you open the (digital) Pandora box. It depends on the company that gave it to you.

Fortunately, companies can make sure that their app provides positive surprises. How? With the help of UX writing.

If this term is new to you, don’t worry. Keep reading, and you’ll discover:

  • What UX writing is 
  • Which is the goal of UX copy
  • Which type of copy enhances the user experience

What is UX writing

UX writing is a design discipline that focuses on enhancing the user experience by microcopy.

UX writing doesn’t limit to content writing, copywriting or UI writing:

  • Content writing (marketing field) is the art of writing content that attracts, informs, and helps find the solution to a problem.
  • Copywriting (marketing field) is the art of writing content that sells (increases the conversion ratio).
  • UI writing (design field) is the art of writing content that makes the user interface (UI) navigation easier.

UX writing encompasses all three writing techniques.

  • The user experience may start, for example, on a blog post where a user discovers the characteristics of the application (content writing, information).
  • If the user finds the information on the blog useful, they will probably move towards the landing page to find out which benefits the application provides (copywriting, conversion).
  • In the end, if the user decides to download and install it, the experience will continue through the user interface. The UI content aims to contribute to intuitive use (UI writing, functionality).

To sum up, user experience writing is a general term, while user interface writing represents a specific term. However, we often use the expressions UX writing and UI writing as synonyms.

What is the goal of UX copy

The goal of UX writing is to create a meaningful conversation between the user and the product.

The conversation is meaningful when the user understands the WHY and the HOW of a task. In other words, the user must have it clear:

  • Why the product responds in a particular way
  • What’s the next step in the task

UX writing must ANSWER their questions and GUIDE them through tasks. This conversation is the core of UX writing.

UX Writing Fundamentals, UX Writing Collective

If the UX copy (microcopy) manages to answer the users’ questions and guide them through the task, that’s how you can avoid two “evils”, known as two F’s of UX writing:

  • Friction is any factor that makes a task difficult or makes the user feel confused.
  • Frustration is one of the friction consequences, which decreases the chances of continuing to use the product.

Which type of copy enhances the user experience

Let’s see now which type of content enhances the user experience.

If we focus only on the content that is part of the user interface, UX writers write the following types of microcopy:

  • Instructions and on-tool information (first-use content, contextual help, and other pieces of information)
  • Dialogue boxes, CTAs, and buttons (interaction interstitials and promotions)
  • Legal notices
  • Notifications, alerts, and errors
  • Lists and forms

Besides, mid-to-high level UX writers also create content for chatbots and voice-based interactions.

Copywriting opens Pandora’s box, UX writing keeps it open

Now that you know what UX writing is, what’s its purpose, and which type of copy enhances the user experience, let’s get back to the Pandora’s box metaphor.

So, when you decide to download and install a mobile application, the company that developed it will give you a particular (digital) Pandora’s box. However, before opening it, be aware that:

  • Thanks to content writing, you found all the necessary information: who was holding the box and what was inside.
  • Copywriting helped you discover the benefits of opening Pandora’s box.
  • In the end, if you decide to take the step, UX writing will help you get the goods out of the box (positive surprises).

On the other hand, in case you work in a company that develop mobile applications, keep in mind the following.

It’s not that challenging to persuade users to open Pandora’s box. The challenge is to help them to keep it open.

And you can’t face either overcome that challenge without UX writing.

A Writing-Friendly Question: Is there any other topic related to UX writing you would like to know more about?

Stasa Durdic

I'm a content writer, copywriter, and UX writer. Serbian by birth, in Barcelona by occasion, writer by decision. I'm in love with the yellow colour, the art of storytelling, and the following phrase from Don Draper (Mad Men): "The client loves to pay the media, and the CREATIVE loves the PENCILS."

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