What is it?
Years ago, “going online” meant scrolling endlessly through giant blocks of text, squinting blurry-eyed at blue underlined hyperlinks, and pulling at loose informational threads to find that one bit of information you needed. If the internet were a planet, those initial web spaces would be its single-cell organisms.
Today, the online experience is immersive and uninhibited by the constraints of HTML and AOL trial CD-ROMs. Users are not merely consuming content online; they are perpetually engaged in swiping, reacting, sharing, and buying. The internet has spawned its own vernacular. Every billboard has a URL associated with it. QR codes and augmented reality apps have made “going online” an obsolete term – we are always online. Every experience is a user experience now.
How do we create content for this new, more connected landscape?
User experience (UX) copywriting refers to the way marketers use language to create branded experiences that are easy, enjoyable, and valuable for users. UX copywriters understand that people go to websites for a purpose. If one brand’s website doesn’t do the job, there is certainly another that will, and it is waiting just a click away. Like a seasoned dance partner, well-crafted copy will lead a user gracefully through a positive experience and an ideal outcome for both user and brand.
Why is it different from other forms of copywriting?
Whereas traditional marketing copy may tend toward the catchy and bombastic, well-crafted UX copy is hardly noticed by users. UX copywriting requires a different skill set than that of a traditional copywriter. Here we are not concerned with building brand image, storytelling, or even selling. UX copy is instead tasked with seamlessly guiding a user to their destination. The path should feel frictionless and instinctive. The job is ultimately to get users from A to B in as few words (and clicks) as possible. Good UX copy reduces the number of seconds that a user spends reading a given page or paragraph. The best UX copy flies totally under the radar.
How can thinking like a UX writer help you with:
Even in tried-and-true direct mail marketing, UX writing’s core principle – encouraging the user to move from A to B quickly and intuitively – is as important as ever. Whether you’re sending postcards, brochures, catalogs, or any other marketing content in the mail, here are some ways thinking as a UX writer can help:
Think about it: when was the last time you read every word of a piece of mail? The “father of advertising” David Ogilvy once claimed that headlines are read five times more often than body copy. Use those precious few seconds of your reader’s attention by asking questions, including benefits, and appealing to the reader’s emotions since many purchases are driven by emotions, not logic.
Okay, you’ve grabbed your reader with a splashy headline. Of course, there’s much more to communicate. But remember: UX copy is all about guiding a user toward a goal, not move them with your artful prose. Don’t be afraid of white space since too much text will overwhelm your reader.
Obvious and Urgent Calls to Action
You’ve delivered some essential information to the reader. They want to take the next step. An effortless call to action with some urgency (“Offer good through…,” “Limited Time Only!”).
According to Smart Insights, email is the most effective marketing channel today. Not surprisingly, a growing number of brands are implementing UX techniques into emails to boost conversion rates. To avoid your user scrambling for the “Mark as Spam” button, think like a UX copywriter in these ways:
It’s All About the Subject Line
In less than three seconds, email users decide whether to continue reading or ignore an email. Be sure to front-load email subjects with keywords. Make it personal and include content in your subject line that entices the reader to want to know more.
Follow Web Conventions
Email has evolved. There is now little difference between a well-designed email and a website’s landing page, at least aesthetically. Buttons should be clickable; hyperlinks should be underlined, and headlines should be bolded. The movement from email to webpage to purchase should be seamless and easy.
Developing an effective user experience amid a sea of social media posts can be tricky. After all, you’re fighting against the user’s instinct to scroll, scroll, scroll, barely noticing what they’re reading. As a UX copywriter, your job is to interrupt their swiping and scrolling for long enough to guide them to the outcome you (and they) desire. Here are a few ways to do it:
Audience is Everything
UX copywriting places a premium on making content personal. Focusing on a particular audience will allow you to tailor a message that more efficiently gets your user from A to B.
Pair the Written with the Visual
On social media, it’s often the image that draws the viewer’s attention. When the perfect image is paired with persuasive text, it’s a match made in UX heaven.
And of Course, the Website
The great paradox of effective UX copywriting is that it goes mostly unnoticed when you’re doing it well. It is essential to use non-intrusive yet helpful microcopy in pages, buttons, menu headers, pop-ups, and instructions on websites. Here are a few ways to do it:
Users typically go online to get something done rather than read for leisure. Keep sentences brief and maintain a direct yet friendly tone to help users happily achieve their goals (and yours).
Some things never change. Language that is engaging and easy to understand always has been and always will be a hallmark of persuasive writing. Remember, your goal is to have users understand your message the first time they read it. Write clearly, conversationally, and concretely.
No Wasted Words
Ease is the name of the game in UX copywriting. Every word counts, and the extra few seconds on superfluous verbiage could be long enough for the user to second-guess their instincts.
Today’s digital landscape is crowded. UX copywriting is all about choosing the right words, in the right order, to guide the user to the right outcome, both for them and for you.