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Up until recently, I had been proudly listing my services and skills as those of funnel designing, funnel building, and copywriting.
When I started coming across the term UX writing, my interest became piqued. Why were my clients requesting a UX writer? Was a copywriter not good enough? After all, I’d been doing both – I created email landing pages, social media links pages, pop-ups, and more – and I’d written copy for all of them. What had I been doing all this time, if not copywriting?
What on earth was a UX writer? What was this insidious skill that threatened my livelihood as a copywriter?
I decided to face this term head-on and dived into researching and learning about UX writing and even microcopy – and have come up with this blog post about UX writing vs Copywriting – the lowdown for freelancers working from home and business owners.
What Is UX Writing?
I’m sure you’ve heard of the term UX design before. UX stands for user experience.
UX design means creating a design that enhances the user experience on a web page, a website, an app, or an email.
UX writing does the same thing but in the form of text. UX writing focuses on giving users an easy-to-understand, easy-to-use user interface, instructions, or steps that make their whole experience seamless and friendly.
The user comes out happy and satisfied.
UX designers and UX writers work hand-in-hand to create the whole experience. You cannot have one without the other.
In this post, I alternate the terms UX writer and UX copywriter, but they mean the same thing.
The human brain processes images a whopping 40,000 times faster than text. However, the text that comes with it needs to support the design, take over when necessary, and generally aim at making the whole encounter a great one.
Hence, UX writers do not start their UX copywriting job until the design team has come up with the design. Tiffany Lee, a UX writer for Google Maps has this to say about her job:
“A large bulk of my time goes into getting sufficient context and validation for each project. No one can write successfully in a vacuum. So I’m constantly interfacing with designers, product managers, engineers, other writers, and researchers before I can type a single word.”
In essence, a good UX copy not only provides a positive user experience but showcases the brand’s voice and creates brand awareness at the same time.
When Do You Use UX Copywriting?
The job of a UX writer is to work with the product team and design team and do the necessary user research before coming up with quality content.
Ux writing is usually used in:
- Most, if not all, mobile apps (small text which is also referred to as microcopy)
- Instructions for first-time users
- Next steps page for first-time users
- Site pop-ups
- Error messages
- Form fields
- Call to action buttons
- Loading screen messages
A UX writer used to be called a content strategist or a content designer, both of which are no longer the best terms to describe a UX writer’s job. A UX writer works hand in hand with a designer, but is not a designer.
A content strategist works to come up with strategized content for all platforms and is able to do it with or without a designer.
Examples Of UX Writing
UX writing prompts the user to take certain actions without knowing that they’re asked to do so. Not getting noticed is a big part of the job, and when the experience becomes so seamless that users do not notice the UX writing prompting them into taking a certain specific action, that is considered a success.
Let’s check out some great examples of UX writing.
In the past, hotels and travel companies would use the words ‘Book A Room’ in their CTA buttons. Eventually, this term was deemed to lack empathy, especially when the users were not ready or were not mentally prepared to book a room yet.
When the text in these buttons was changed to ‘Check Availability’, user interaction and conversions increased by 17%. This is the effect of subtle yet effective UX copy.
In this case, the copywriter in me believes that if I were to change the text to:
“Plan Your Dream Holiday Now” the conversion rates will be even higher!
Here is another example of good UX writing:
The words ‘Get Started’ tell the users that a whole new adventure is waiting for them behind the button. With the change, conversions jumped by 31.03% – a great result, especially for sales pages selling digital products or doing eCommerce.
What Is Copywriting?
Copywriting is content that aims to drive sales, increase conversions, and is specifically tailored to a target audience. It is crafted with intent and a copywriter’s job is to find the right words to get visitors to become potential customers or email subscribers.
That is ultimately the main goal for all copywriting content creators.
Copywriting is used in:
- Landing pages
- Email marketing
- Social media posts
- eCommerce sales pages
- Blog posts
- Promotional materials
Examples Of Copywriting
Let’s check out some examples of good copywriting.
Source: Ramit Sethi
On his landing page, Ramit nudges you into starting a quiz to see who you can be at your fullest potential.
To be honest, I nearly signed up. This is some persuasive copy.
He maintains his brand voice but utilizes content strategy in the best way.
For those who are feeling lost, aimless, or just looking to get more out of life, this copy is the perfect way to get them to jump on his email list via quiz participation.
Source: Frank Kern
Frank Kern immediately targets your pain point, which is one of the best practices in effective copywriting. The subheadline then supports the headline by offering a solution to the pain point.
This is followed by a friendly and non-intimidating call to action button that says “Tell Me More.”
OK, I signed up for this one, because as a digital marketer and business owner, what he’s offering is what I really want. We can never get enough customers from the Internet, can we?
The Differences Between UX Writing And Copywriting (UX Writing Vs Copywriting)
So, what are the differences between UX writing and copywriting?
The infographic below shows a quick summary of the differences, but let’s go deeper.
Source: UX Collective
While the image above may seem to show the key differences between what copywriters and UX writers do, there are many overlapping areas – both are writing for users, so nothing is as black and white as it seems.
Let’s go through them.
Copywriting aims to increase opt-ins and sales. UX writing aims to guide customers through instructions and steps in the best way possible.
Copywriting also seeks to promote a positive experience. No user likes to be hustled into buying something. Hence, even in its desire to increase opt-ins and sales, copywriting does it in a way that talks to the right people, with the right words. Those that do not feel the pain points will not convert. Those that do, will.
Copywriting works with marketers. UX writing works with designers.
This is not entirely accurate. Copywriting needs to work with and support the design on the landing page, so as not to end up fighting for the reader’s attention and causing confusion.
Copywriting and design need to go together to create a smooth visual hierarchy so potential clients need to read what they need to read first or see what they need to see first.
Copywriting works for businesses. UX writing works for the customers.
Copywriting has to work for the customers, too. A business is not just about making money, but about being able to provide a solution that actually helps the clients get what they want.
Therefore, a CTA button in copywriting is just as important and works towards the same aim as UX writing – which is to get the target audience to take a specific action.
It all depends on the business goals and the type of content that is created.
The Differences Between UX Writing And Copywriting (From A Funnel Designer’s Point Of View)
After doing much research on UX writing and the huge role it plays in user experience, I started to think that maybe what I was doing was more of UX writing, and less of copywriting.
As a funnel builder, I am given the idea, the context, and the business goal of the whole page by the business owner or marketing team.
I then do my homework (much like a UX researcher), checking out numerous designs, flow, and competitor landing pages before coming up with a design that I feel meets the needs of the target audience.
I create a wireframe and then mentally begin to add copy and text as I go, so the content and the design complement each other and tell a story that not only enhances user experience, but makes the whole page easily understandable, digestible, and as empathetic as it can be.
The whole effect (good UX design and helpful content) aims to increase conversions.
There is definitely a gray area between copywriting and UX writing for me, being both a copywriter and a designer.
The main difference between these two will be the different roles they play when it comes to comparing between a landing page and a mobile device application – where the former aims to see perhaps a purchase, while the latter guides the customer through a set of instructions post-purchase.
How To Become A UX Writer
The role of a UX writer:
A UX writer is a content writer.
You work with the UX design team to create the best user experience possible.
You stay invisible, and your nudges have to be extremely subtle, yet effective.
Despite the similarities, I do believe that being a copywriter and a UX writer requires different skill sets to a certain extent.
If you’re like me, both a designer and a copywriter, a lot of lines will blur, but it does not matter, for the main goal is the same – great user experience, and great conversion rates.
Many major tech companies as well as digital marketing companies are actively looking for UX writers nowadays.
Most marketing departments have a budget set aside for UX writers.
The average salary for UX writers in the USA is a whopping $121,000 a year!
If you feel that this is the job for you, head on over to platforms that are advertising writing jobs and look for job descriptions or a job title specifying UX writers.
If you have experience in writing, you’ll have a ready portfolio to show your would-be employers.
However, if you’re new to freelance writing, you may want to take on several clients as a freelancer or put out several blog posts highlighting your research skills and writing skills before applying for a job.
Taking on clients for free and using them as case studies is also a great way to grow your portfolio.
Conclusion: UX Writing Vs Copywriting
There is no doubt that while both these types of writing play different roles, they also have very much the same aim when it comes to website content and user experience.
They both want the audiences or users to have the best and most seamless journey, be it on a landing page or a step-by-step guide.
Copywriting, however, has more intent and targets a specific audience, whereas UX writing can be all about helping the user reach his next step in using a new app or walking him through an onboarding sequence with minimal issues.
Copywriting is more sales focused, whereas UX writing is more client-focused and requires in-depth teamwork with the design team and the product development team.
It may be easier to start off as a copywriter and eventually transition into a UX writer. It will definitely help if you have a background in design and UX/UI experience.
If you’re a business owner, you may want to hire a copywriter purely for marketing purposes, and a UX writer for your apps, your post-purchase services, and your next steps guide.
Can I call myself a bit of both? I believe so, and I believe I won’t be the only one doing it!