For freelance writer Andrew Bliss, user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) writing has become a major – and fascinating – segment of his work.
As a UX/UI writer, he’s done everything from rewriting navigational content for SBS’s On-Demand platforms to working on the Qantas Wellbeing sleep app.
Andrew first got into UX/UI writing because a client with an upcoming project asked if he would do it for them. “I said yes, then quickly learnt what it was that I needed to do!” he says.
Now having worked in the field for a number of years, Andrew’s work mostly comes from word-of-mouth and networking, with one job often leading to a recommendation for another.
“I did work for SBS On Demand recently and rewrote a lot of their stuff – they were across eleven different platforms interlinked,” he says. “You have to get right into the nitty gritty, which deals with the peculiarities of the technology of each platform. A Samsung TV is different to a Telstra TV, which is different again to a tablet or an iPhone.”
“I did a sleep app for Qantas, which was hugely lauded worldwide – Arianna Huffington put out a special mention. Then you get down to the things like the product descriptions, which are quite common for websites and e-commerce platforms.”
There’s also a lot of work in search engine optimisation because the rules keep changing, which Andrew says, means websites may need to be rewritten very quickly.
“Often companies will find that what they might have needed from an SEO writer a year ago will have to be redone, to meet the new needs of the company and of the search engine.”
Tell a good story
As a former journalist and freelance writer for many years, Andrew says there's a lot of freelance UX work out there, and that the fundamentals of the work are the same as other writing. The audience is online now, but you still have to have a good story.
“The day in the life of it involves a lot of fossicking for information, and then once you've got that down pat then it’s writing like anything else – constantly editing and proofreading your own work and then sending it back to people. Sometimes, you need to put those words into flowcharts for the rest of the team to see the context, especially for apps,” he says.
“Beyond that, as you get sort of towards the pointy end of the funnel, it's about ensuring the tone of voice and language matches throughout, and matches the user journey. So depending on where it appears, you know that it's a fairly seamless kind of process.”
Calling all team players
For people thinking about becoming UX/UI writers, Andrew says there are a few important skills, and top of the list are teamwork and communication. UX/UI writers will engage with customers and marketing-focused staff along with technical staff like developers and engineers, and have to be able to get everyone on-side, he says.
“Often you find you might be a bridge between the two worlds, to sort of marry what they do,” he says. “It's a very collaborative process, because the terms aren't necessarily really easily definable. They can mean different things to different people: often, your role can be as a translator.”
Also vital is the ability to edit your own work repeatedly and to fit it to the client’s needs.
“It's essential to not be precious about what you do, not least because of time constraints, but because you are also given character counts and things like that,” he says. “You've got to be able to edit fiercely and not be precious about your work because it will take up valuable time and it will result in a lesser product.”
A growing market
In the past three years or so, Andrew says his work has gone from being roughly 10% UX and UI writing to about 75%, when combined with SEO writing.
“UX/UI writing is definitely something which has taken up more and more of my time as it becomes a more necessary part of our lives,” he says.
“I think the important part is to read and learn as much as you can about other forms or areas of writing, so that when an opportunity comes up you can take advantage of it,” he says.
“Doing courses on UX and UI is good; that and SEO writing is incredibly in demand. There is so much work out there. It is one of the sort of more lucrative forms of writing out there now.”
To become a UX/UI writer, Andrew says he’d advise going online and reading up on the topic to make sure you get a good understanding of what it involves, and then taking a course to really master the techniques and skills you need.
“If you have the guidance of somebody who is experienced, it will save you a lot of time and tears and energy,” he says. “If you can narrow down your skill set before you start, that ends up in happier you and happier customers.”