UX and UI writing – which stands for ‘user experience’ and ‘user interface’, respectively – will be something you experience every day, though probably without even knowing it. At its best, it’s seamless.
UX/UI writers are increasingly in demand, and those who freelance tend to move from workspace to workspace staying for the duration of whatever project they’re working on – which could take days, weeks or months. Generally a freelancer will sign on for three months initially, and then that can be extended as the project develops.
Messaging via microcopy
The kinds of projects a UX/UI writer could work on ranges from writing error messages, to paths-to-purchase for e-commerce, to content for the landing pages of new apps and websites.
UX/UI writers are also involved in coming up with a range of responses for chatbots, and writing text messages for organisations to send out.
“I've been brought in, for instance, to write email templates and scripts for customer call centers, Help Desk type situations,” Carli says. “I've done that for Qantas – Qantas will say ‘we get 1000 emails a day and we need templates for our customer call center staff so they can fill in a few proforma details and email back to a customer.’
“It’s lots of library work, lots of creating pro forma responses to what a customer's question might be, whether it's web chat, or voice, or email templates.”
As a UX and UI writer, your job is to take the product users on a journey, and Carli says there’s a lot of parallels between this kind of writing and feature writing.
“You want to hold the attention of the reader or the user from the first word to the last,” she says. “And to make it as easy and quick and seamless for them to get to the end or the end point they want to get to, without frustrating them. It has to be as seamless as possible so that the user or the reader sticks with you through that journey.”
Carli established Qantas’ UX/UI writing team nearly five years ago, and has consulted for a number of other clients such as Adobe and SBS OnDemand. She sees plenty of opportunity in the sector, particularly for those with existing writing experience.
For would-be UX and UI writers, Carli says it’s vital that they be able to edit their own work tightly.
“The teams that I've worked with, I find the best UX writers are long form journalists – they’re awesome at it, because they’re used to editing their work really heavily and they're not afraid to edit their work,” she says.
“I think a long form journalist might not usually go, ‘Oh, I might go into UX writing’. But the general industry thought too is that it's those kinds of writers that make good UX/UI writers, because they're not precious and they love that play on words.
“Kill your darlings. You can't be precious. You're basically always attempting to use as few words as possible.”
Frequently, Carli’s days will start with a standup meeting: the writers will be there along with the developers, computing engineers and administrators, in what’s known as a cross-functional team in the world of Agile working.
“Everybody feeds in as to how the project is going,” Carli says. “Because when you're writing UX and UI, it's hugely dependent on how a product is being built as you go along. You're often writing lots of different draft variations, you know, will the screen look like this? Or will the app screen look like that?”
An important element of UX/UI writing is constantly getting feedback from the team you’re working with, because things can change rapidly. Carli presents her work every day or so to incorporate their feedback and keep evolving the writing.
“The size of a button might change, or the complete layout of the page for web, or the layout of a page for an app, all of those things change,” she says. “You have to be able to edit incredibly heavily.”
Once a project is finished, a freelance UX/UI writer will often be contracted to stay on for a day a week, or a couple of days per month, to provide continuous editing and improvements. Organisations with a heavy focus on online customer interactions often employ UX/UI writers full-time because their platforms are constantly evolving.
Whether you’re an experienced writer looking to use your skills in a new way, or your background is different entirely, UX/UI writing is a growing sector with plenty of opportunity. If you think you might have what it takes, sign up for the Australian Writers’ Centre’s UX Writing course to learn the essential skills.