Expert Carli Ratcliff’s 5 must-dos for would-be UX/UI writers

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User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) writing is a rapidly growing market, as businesses pivot to online and chase the attention of customers with a million options at their fingertips. To do this, communications experts must make every word count. Carli Ratcliff runs the Australian Writers' Centre's UX/UI Copywriting course and she shares her top 5 practical tips for people interested in becoming a UX and/or UI writer.

1. Determine your tone of voice and stick to it

A company’s written tone – in all formats from social media, to marketing emails, to chat bots – needs to be consistent. It’s a prime factor in building and upholding a brand, as maintaining that tone will help customers feel comfortable and familiar. 

Thinking about the image you want to portray will help you figure out the language your company should use; it could be light-hearted and friendly, serious yet enthusiastic, or daring and innovative. Whatever your chosen tone, it’s important you’re using language that is simple and understandable for all users.

Don't: Use language that is jargonistic and technical.
DO: Choose plain, simple language – e.g. ‘Earn money from your extra space’ (Airbnb).

2. Ensure text is navigational and directional

Getting someone to click on a drop-down menu option, a button or a link is much easier if they know exactly where that click will take them. Making it easy for website or app users to do what they came to do will help minimise frustration and maximise positive associations with the business. 

“As a writer, you need to engage the user from the absolute get go, and take them to the end of their journey seamlessly, with minimal frustration,” Carli says. 

Don't: Ask your user to ‘click here' with no information about where this will take them.
DO: Ensure your choice of words drives the user to action naturally – ‘sign in’, ‘order and pay’.

3. Address the user 

Remember you are talking to a human at the end of that app or webpage, and that they’re more likely to stay engaged if you address them personally. Think about the profile of the user you’re addressing, and use the word ‘you’ where possible.

Don't: Refer to someone as ‘the customer’ or ‘the shopper’.
DO: Say ‘Welcome back X’ when they log in, suggest a customer ‘pay with your credit card’.

4. Use as few words as possible on your ‘call to action'

A ‘call to action’ is the part of UI design which encourages people to act: to purchase, contact, or subscribe. The microcopy which goes onto these buttons should use as few words as possible – keep it simple to communicate effectively, and be ready to edit heavily.

“It's always economies of scale,” says Carli. “Get it down, get it down. You’ve got six words, you have to get it to three. So it's almost like a word game.”

Don't: Ask ‘Do you want to book?’
DO: Say ‘Book now’.

5. Embrace SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which involves shaping website content to improve visibility in search engine results, is hugely important to get a product or service in front of the customers who want it. Think about it: how often do you go past the first page of Google results? Search engines frequently change how they rank web pages, so it’s important to stay on top of SEO strategies. 

Don't: Worry about keyword density – making phrases or words appear multiple times on the page. This is an older technique which is not as helpful to drive traffic as it once was.
DO: Use appropriate keywords wherever relevant and get up to speed on SEO.

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