Content world`s new baby - the UX writer

A by-product of commerce`s liaison with the online world.

Times change, hairstyles change, even presidents change. So why not the role of a writer or copywriter?

For over two years now I`ve been following with a certain degree of interest the birth of a new breed of writers. The user experience or UX writer was born because of commerce`s sustained relationship with the WorldWideWeb.

Readers of this newsletter and others within the community who`ve never heard of the term may be excused for their ignorance. The market is still not clear whether this infant of the digital world will die before hitting prepubescence, or shall grow into an healthy adult.

We all know by now that the Internet, the www and digital technology have combined to create new job profiles in various fields, including content. Some have been mere fads, some JDs were stillborn, some eventually survived, while a few thrived.

A relatively new development, there is still tremendous confusion of who or what is a UX writer. Not to mention new JDs like UX copywriter that have been added to the mix.

My understanding of the UX writer profile based on my interactions with web designers, developers, content providers and my reading on the subject is this:

A UX writer is a content provider whose skills lie in writing copy to enhance user experience.

For all purposes, nobody expects a UX writer to hard peddle. So this person is not expected to write an ad or marketing copy. Let me put it this way - a UX writer has to handhold a visitor or prospect, and guide the person through the labyrinth of products or services or solutions up on offer, explaining each in a short yet succinct manner. All this without allowing the visitor to lose interest. Yes, no doubt, it`s skillful writing.

The target audience here is the visitor to your Site or app, or someone reading a product description on Amazon, or even in a product email catalog.

But if only life was so simple. The global content community seems divided over the exact definition of a UX writer. Is he front-facing only? Or does his job start once a prospect is “inside” the product; meaning, once he has navigated to the inside pages and started reading up the description of a particular product?

Is a UX writer the same as a UX copywriter? Is a UX copywriter the same as a product writer? For that matter, is there really something called a UX copywriter?

The genesis of a UX writer lies in website design and development. Once upon a time, website design and development was a simple-enough exercise, and virtually the sole domain of code loving web developers. Almost no other “outsider” was allowed in.

Then came template based content management systems like WordPress and such, and suddenly, it was “open season”. Not only the founder or the CEO, you now had the CMO and his team, the BDO and his colleagues, the content team, and even the accounts department telling the developer on how a website should be designed, and the “design flow”.

With the explosion in the number of sites, the onset of e-commerce, followed by smartphone apps, and then chatbots, it only got more difficult. More and more voices got involved in site/app design and development.

From this tower of babble then rose the UX designer, and now, the UX writer.

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Funnily, (and I`ve noticed this for some other digital JDs outside the content world), most of these modern-day functionalities and job avatars do not have a “standardized” description. That, to me, is an indication that it`s pouring old wine in new (digital) bottles. Like I wrote in last week’s edition, almost all digital forms of content have their antecedents in the old-world.

A UX writer is a hyper-specialized job, yes, but not really the kind that requires the acquisition of special knowledge like HTML5 or the R computing language. Nope. So can any writer fit in? I would think, yes. Especially those who have been involved in copywriting or writing marketing copy, brochures, industrial products, and stuff.

To further understand the definition of a UX writer, you need to first grasp the goal of UX design. In the digital world, it`s any design that lends to overall customer satisfaction in any interaction with a product. A UX writer is seen as an extension or even part of the UX design team, for his/her copy has to sync with the overall aim of such a design. Capisce?

Those of you who want to take to this form of writing, here`s what companies which hire UX writers want (based on JDs put out in the content market):

  • Be a sound communicator

  • Must have both, verbal and written communication skills

  • Must have working knowledge of design, specially site design

  • Must be able to write interface copy

  • Must be able to work in a team (since the person would be part of the UX design team)

  • Should be able to conduct research

I`ve always believed this - if you`ve been a career writer, it does not take much for you to unlearn and learn new things in content. So if you like the idea of becoming a UX writer, and want to jump the career ship, go ahead. It`s not a difficult barrier to overcome.

Image by Nandhu Kumar from Pixabay 

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