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UX storytelling and measuring your success

Content is an integral part of digital services. Still, it’s often overlooked when we design the ins and outs of user interfaces. How does UX writing help in creating successful user experiences and how can we measure that success? 

Copy is the tip of the iceberg

Let’s start with the basic concept: UX writing is designing intuitive user experiences through the medium of text.

In practice this means designing the content structure, defining voice and tone, and writing user interface copy. Designing content is more than doing the words, though.

On top of language and writing skills, UX writing requires a thorough understanding of the tools and technologies used in digital service development as well as excellent communication skills. A UX writer ensures that all content is search engine optimized and accessible. Algorithms and platforms evolve constantly, which also makes UX writing a continuous process where content is tested and developed along with the rest of the service.

Seeing the forest beyond the trees

User interface texts, or microcopy, cover everything from navigation to buttons, forms, and error messages. They guide the user forward and tell what information and features they can expect at each stage when browsing a webshop or using a bank application, for example.

When microcopy is done right, it answers questions before they even come up and helps the user avoid dead ends – and saves from frustrated calls to customer service.

Word choices and slight variations in tone are a considerable part of the user’s total experience. It matters what the error message in a checkout form says if it’s the difference between the user completing their purchase or moving on to a competitor’s service. The right words in the right places can also surprise and delight users.

At the heart of UX writing are usability and clarity. Content must not mislead the user, and humor or puns aren’t appropriate for every situation or brand. Core messages should be communicated simply and directly.

UX writing sets the foundation for your brand

A UX writer brings the brand’s voice and tone to the service’s tiniest details and oversees that all content is aligned. They work on terminology and put it into practice, for example by creating guides for content producers and translators. At the same time, they make sure that the brand isn’t just talking about itself, but addressing the user.

By understanding the needs of the user, the service, and the brand, as well as considering accessibility and usability, we’re already well on our way to UX storytelling.

As for any good story, the same rules apply in digital contexts. Good stories evoke emotions and want to be retold, they’re easy to identify with, and most of all, they’re real.

Storytelling helps us create interaction between users and services. Humans and humanity should be present in the digital world. Instead of seeing a service as a user interface that conveys information to a recipient, we can look at it as interactions and conversations between people. Conversational design helps us build brands and find our own voice and story.

A good story directs the user on the right path and supports their needs. A brand that can create feelings of success and positive reinforcement is a brand that gains trust and engagement.

Creating a consistent story takes teamwork. Collaboration should cross-team limits: only when the brand, marketing, and communications department, stakeholders, agile teams, and content designers really talk to each other, can we create usable services that truly embody the brand and support business goals.

UX writing balances out the team

Unfortunately many often assume that content takes little effort, and the UX writer is brought on board only when the service is nearly complete and we need someone to replace the lorem ipsum with the right words. To achieve the best outcome, the UX writer should be part of the project from the concepting phase to make sure that content requirements are considered from the start. Without knowing anything about the development process or the wider context of the service, it’s practically impossible to design good content. 

A UX writer works as part of agile development teams. They’re responsible for the content, but also support and spar the rest of the team and free up time and resources from others to focus on their own design and development work, all the while ensuring that everything comes together seamlessly.

UX writing can be seen as interpreting the brand and business goals to users: why does the service exist and how does it work. To get a deep understanding of the service and its development, a UX writer asks tons of questions and often brings people from across the organization together to discuss common goals.

At best, when the whole team is part of co-designing a service that addresses user needs, takes stakeholders into account, and lives and breathes the brand, we’re improving both team satisfaction and user engagement.

What’s the value of UX writing?

The value of content design can’t be measured by word count nor are brands built overnight, so here we need to keep long-term goals in mind. While we may not be able to get measured results immediately, it doesn’t mean that investing in content isn’t worth it. From the point of view of service development, UX writing can be measured in several ways, depending on available time and resources.

If we’re working with an existing service, before starting out and during the project it’s important to dive into available data in order to follow up on potential changes in user behavior as well as key SEO and conversion metrics. It’s also useful to look into how people are contacting customer service: are there any changes in numbers or topics in correlation to published changes.

Content structure, word choices, style, and understandability can be tested with A/B tests, online questionnaires, different kinds of prototypes, and interviewing users face to face or remotely. Feedback from even a few people can be very valuable and help assess content and decide the direction for future development.

Digital services are also evaluated both internally and externally through different kinds of audits – for example, it would not be possible to pass an accessibility audit if the service’s content structure or user interface copy had not been designed thoughtfully down to the alt texts.

 

Our content designers work both as part of our clients’ development teams and on a project basis. Would you like to hear more about UX writing and how it could help your organization reach its targets? Contact our consulting business director Maija Typpi-Häkkinen: maija.typpi-hakkinen@frantic.com & +358 50 566 2819.

We also recently held a Frantic Live webinar on UX writing in Finnish, you can watch the recording here

 

Authors: Piia Jalonen, Content Lead & Lilli Pukka, Content Designer