The importance of UX Writing in Website Design
When designing a website, too many companies forget about the words on the page. Here's why considering UX writing is essential.
Published: 17 Sep 2020
8 minutes read
When you think about redesigning your website, the first thing you’re likely to be most concerned with is the design itself - colours, images, cool interactive features. Often, the actual words on the page are an afterthought - but why?
Perhaps it’s because 94% of first impressions relate to your site’s web design - meaning that on a surface level, we’re more likely to be drawn in by the way a site looks than what it actually says. However, what many don’t realise is that web copy plays a much larger role than you may initially think - and not just for sales and marketing purposes.
In this blog, we’ll introduce you to UX writing - what it is, why it’s essential in your site redesign, and how you can utilise UX principles to write better copy for your visitors.
what is ux writing?
Chelsea Armstrong at Copyhackers defines UX writing as:
“The act of writing and structuring copy that moves digital users, like visitors and customers, toward accomplishing a goal in an intuitive way.”
Typically, when UX (user experience) is discussed, it refers mainly to UX design - that is, the process that designers use to create products or services that provide a valuable and relevant experience to their target users.
In this sense, UX writing is similar. However, while UX design draws visitors in, and helps them navigate round your site, UX writing explains to visitors what to do, where to go, and why and how they need to go about it. So, in simple terms, UX writing supports design in making for a better user experience overall - that is not only highly consistent with brand and tone of voice, but that helps users achieve their goals.
The most common examples of UX writing include:
- CTAs (call to actions)
- Labels on a navigation menu
- Success or error messages (such as 404 pages)
- Labels on forms
- Fine print
Most of these fall under the ‘microcopy’ umbrella, but UX writing isn’t just used in this way, and can be used in web pages, emails and any other user ‘touchpoint’ where you want them to take an action, or achieve their goals quicker.
Ultimately, UX writing ensures that users move through your site in a way that best suits them, and that the experience while doing so is a positive one.
Why is UX writing important in web design?
Using clever, persuasive language to get your message across is a great way to entice people to purchase your product or service. However, this alone doesn’t work. Sometimes, copy needs to be as simple and straightforward as possible in order to get users to take action.
What I mean by this is that it’s one thing to write in a compelling way about your products or services, but it’s another entirely different thing to actually get users to this part of your site. UX writing helps you do this, by aiding the design in a way that ensures users receive an experience tailored to them, and their needs.
Think about when you visit a website for the first time - sometimes, you may need a little guidance; whether it’s to move around the site, or find what you need. In terms of UX, it’s how you receive this guidance that can be the difference between you staying on the site, and exiting right away; for instance, if something happens which could make your experience less enjoyable.
Look at 404 errors, for example. Sometimes, you can’t stop users somehow getting to these pages, and if handled incorrectly - 404s can be detrimental to the user experience. That’s why in recent years, many companies have taken a different approach. Like us!
Our 404 page is a great example of how UX writing can help guide users through their journey, and cleverly nudge them to specific areas of your site. While we’ve clearly stated there’s been an error, we attempt to get users back to where they need to be by including a link to our blog. Not only does this ensure that users have somewhere to go when they arrive on this page by mistake, it means they won’t just exit our site right away, and could perhaps even end up reading some of our blogs - something that could potentially be the difference between gaining or losing a customer.
This is just one simple example of good UX writing, however, it demonstrates the importance of taking it into consideration when designing your website - even on pages you don’t want users to see.
WRITING FOR USERS IN YOUR WEBSITE REDESIGN PROJECT
So, I’ve gone through what UX writing is, and briefly explained why it’s important to website design - now it’s time to give you some tips on how to use UX writing principles in your site redesign.
As you may have already guessed, writing for user experience is a very specific skill, and not something that everyone could (or should) realistically be able to do. UX writing is more than just coming up with a few simple words; it involves real research into your target audience, and seeing what works best, with constant testing needed to determine the effectiveness of your copy. That’s why if you’re wanting to use best practice UX writing on your site, it’s best to enlist the help of a web design agency with content experts in your industry - particularly if your business’ target customers are highly specific.
That being said, there are a number of tips you can use when crafting your web copy, to ensure that your users are at the forefront of everything you write.
5 TIPS FOR WRITING UX FOCUSED COPY
1. Don’t use complex language
No matter what industry you’re in, as a general rule of thumb, the simpler the language you use, the better. UX writing is about providing clarity - so it’s best to stick to short words that everyone will be able to understand instantly.
Often, businesses (particularly those in B2B industries) will use highly complex language due to the niche nature of their organisation; however, while this is fine for content such as blogs, or eBooks and even some web pages, it doesn’t work in cases where language needs to be short and concise, such as CTAs, or instructional copy.
As tempting as it can be to be overly complex or creative at the expense of the user experience (even I’m guilty of this at times), simple, direct language almost always performs better. If you’re struggling, there are tools out there that can help, such as this Readability Test Tool.
2. ALWAYS LEAD WITH THE BENEFITS
The beginning of a sentence is what most people will focus on, and often, they want to know what they’ll get in return for doing something right away - which is why your copy should always lead with the benefits the user will get from what you’re describing, be it a product or service.
Take this microcopy example:
"Get your free download"
This small phrase tells the user what they need to do, and what they’ll receive as a result immediately - it's both instructional and persuasive. “Get” invites them to take action, and “free” shows them what they’ll gain in return: a download. It’s simple language like this that makes all the difference when it comes to not only inviting users to take action on your site, but also converting them into customers.
3. Reflect brand tone and voice
Like everything you do on your site, your copy (yes, even microcopy) should be written in a way that reflects the tone and voice you want your brand to convey. This is where you can be a bit more creative, by injecting humour or real speech into your copy. However, whatever you do, consistency is key. If your brand is very serious, and all copy across the site is formal, humour isn’t going to sit right. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t think outside of the box.
Think about CTAs, instead of each CTA you have written as ‘request a consultation’ - change it up! Try something more direct, like ‘book a course’, ‘book your demo’, or ‘get a free trial’, and test if you see any changes in results. This is a core principle of UX, and something I’ll come back to shortly.
4. MAKE YOUR COPY SCANNABLE
As sad as it is, most of the time, users won’t take the time to read every word on the page - no matter how much effort you put into your copy (cry). That’s why it’s extremely important that all copy you write is scannable, and that the words you want to stand out, do so effectively. This is where UX writing and design work together - as any microcopy will influence your design, and vice versa.
You can make copy scannable by changing the way it looks on the page, by using headings, lists, columns and other text formats to ensure users never have to look at one huge block of text. Like anything else UX related, this takes time to perfect, and involves a great deal of testing to get the best result - bringing me to our next tip.
5. ALWAYS TEST YOUR COPY! (SEE, TOLD YOU I'D COME BACK TO THIS)
Since the very principles of UX design and writing are based on users themselves, it should come as no surprise that testing, and the use of real visitor data is absolutely essential.
However, when it comes to redesigning a website, it can be easy to take feedback from those above you as proof that your writing is clear enough, or does the job you want it to. Unfortunately, most of the time, this isn’t the case. Often, your colleagues may be too close to the subject matter, and therefore your copy could be overly complex or contain jargon that is off-putting to your visitors - something that isn’t always obvious without testing.
Since your website is an ever evolving entity, copy should never be written and then forgotten about. Users change, buying behaviours change, and by not regularly re-working your copy to match this, you could be negatively impacting the experience users have on your website.
Regular testing, and making changes based on real data is a core principle of Growth Driven Design, which uses both best practice UX design and writing to create a site that doesn’t go stale after going live. Focused entirely on your users, and making changes based on their behaviour, GDD is the only web design method for businesses in sectors that are constantly evolving.
We’ve only touched on the surface of what UX writing is, and how important it is to incorporate it into your site redesign. In order to bring best practice UX into your site, you first need to understand where your site is performing well, where it’s lacking, and how it could be improved to create a better user experience.
That’s why we’re offering a free website consultation, where one of our experts will review your site, and provide you with real, actionable recommendations that can help you better meet your needs. Why not book yours today?