UX copywriting. The term’s been bandied about for a while now, and if you follow my socials, you’ll hear me banging on about user experience (UX) all the time. Far from being the new buzzword on the street, this hybrid mix of UX writing and copy is here to stay. And that’s good news for business owners looking for copywriters with an edge.
So what makes UX copywriting different? And what skills do you need to give your copy a UX super-boost?
Let’s find out…
What is UX copywriting?
Ever walked into a department store and been unable to find what you need? Despite those overhead signs pointing you in the right direction, nothing is in the right place. And the more you hunt, the more frustrating it becomes. Take TK Maxx, for instance. It drives me bananas rummaging through the store, trying to find what I need. Jumpers mixed in with T-shirts and a “woollens” rail further instore to add confusion. As for the household goods, well, let’s not go there.
Do I still shop in TK Maxx? Yes, I do. But the likelihood of me becoming a regular TK shopper is zero. It’s my last resort when I’ve exhausted all other options.
What’s this got to do with UX copywriting?
Nobody’s gonna keep visiting a website that’s tricky to navigate, frustrating to buy from and confusing to understand — no matter how good your product, copy or content is.
And that’s where UX (user experience) comes into play.
UX copywriters write customer-focused copy while ensuring users enjoy a seamless browsing experience by guiding them through the website with hierarchical messaging and straightforward navigation. This practical mix of copy and UX writing is key to bringing home the conversion moolah. Every word serves a purpose — perfectly matching business and user goals.
Unlocking the secrets to effective UX copywriting
Ready to unleash your inner UX geek? Here are 5 skills to master if you want to evoke emotion, guide users, and influence buying actions. Let’s go!
Understanding your audience
This is the NUMBER ONE aspect of writing like a UX-er. You can’t guide your users without knowing what they’re after. Research plays a massive part in the life of a UX copywriter.
Want to find out your users’ (or/and client’s) motivations, struggles and desires? Get involved in:
- Voice of customer interviews and surveys
- Figuring out the user’s main jobs to be done (you don’t buy a hammer because it’s durable. You buy it to hammer in nails. That’s the job to be done).
- Interviewing business stakeholders and teams
- User testing
- Creating personas
- Competitor analysis
It sounds like a lot, but it’s essential for honing in on exactly what your users are searching for.
Carrying out empathy mapping
You’ve nailed the research; now it’s time to start piecing it together. The best way to stay focused on your user’s needs is to create empathy maps and user stories.
According to UX experts Niesen Norman, an empathy map is “a collaborative visualisation used to articulate what we know about a particular type of user. It externalises knowledge about users in order to 1) create a shared understanding of user needs, and 2) aid in decision making.”
In simple terms, it’s prioritising what your user thinks, feels, says and does before arriving at your website (or while using it during user testing).
A simple way to create an empathy map is to divide a page into 4 quarters. Here’s an example, again from the Nielsen Norman website.
Let’s pretend we’re writing copy for an online banking app. Here’s what an empathy map might be like for the initial research stages.
“How will I manage my money now my local branch has closed?”
“I need to switch banks to get a better interest rate.”
“I need an online bank that deals with crypto.”
“I’d like to manage all my accounts in one place.”
“I don’t understand online banking.”
“How do I know which is the best banking app?”
“Is online banking secure?”
“Can I access my money easily?”
Searches for the best interest rates
Researches online banking security
Asks friends and family for recommendations
Compares different banking apps
Apprehensive about trying online banking
Worried about security
Confused about which is the best app
Optimistic about finding a better interest rate
How does this help you write better copy?
Because it helps you pinpoint the struggles, desires and questions you need to target in your messaging. You’ll speak directly to the user, like a friend who understands. The more research you do, the more detailed your empathy maps and user stories will be.
Creating a seamless user flow
A user has arrived on your site and is nodding along with everything they read. You’ve nailed their struggles and desires; they feel 100% understood.
But hang on…where are they going? They haven’t hit the CTA. In fact, they’re heading towards a different page.
If this happens, the user flow needs some work.
User flows represent users’ various paths while interacting with a product, from initial engagement to accomplishing specific tasks or goals. As a UX copywriter, understanding user flows allows you to strategically place the right words at the right moments, guiding users through their journey smoothly and intuitively.
When planning out user flow, remember to:
- Think about where the user has already been on the site before landing on each page
- Focus on the questions the user’s likely to have
- Create a logical flow for messaging
- Avoid excessive repetition of points page to page
Mastering the art of microcopy
Those little phrases on websites that give you the final push to sign up? They’re golden nuggets of click-trigger microcopy that make the difference between a kerching sale and a slump off quietly, never to return customer.
But microcopy isn’t just about click triggers. It helps instruct the user and guides them around the website while injecting personality and brand voice. (Be careful with that last one. Remember, an error message isn’t the best place to throw in a humourous pun.)
Wondering where microcopy fits on your website? The following are the usual mini-marvels:
- Titles and headings
- CTAs and snippets of text around CTAs
- Error messages
- Status messages
- Forms and labels
- Confirmation messages
Wherever your user needs guidance, you’ll need to add microcopy. Want to learn more about microcopy? I fully recommend reading “Microcopy. The Complete Guide” by Kinneret Yifrah.
This may seem more like a design aspect, but as copywriters (or business owners writing our own copy), having knowledge of best design practices is invaluable. There’s nothing worse than spending weeks researching, planning and writing perfectly crafted copy to see it in a design that throws all UX principles out the window.
Most designers have UX knowledge. Indeed, all the designers that I work with do. But the amount of websites I see with large, hard-to-read centre-aligned chunks of text is still mindblowing.
For text to be readable, it needs:
- Headers and subheads
- Centre-aligned titles but left-aligned for large chunks of text
- Correct line spacing
- White space to give the eyes a rest
- Images to break up chunks of text if possible
- Easy-to-read fonts
- No more than 3 fonts
- Mobile optimisation
You never know—you might enjoy finding out more about design. If it piques your interest, then check out the Baymard Institute. They have a HUGE library of e-commerce UX best practices that often apply to service-based websites.
Mastering the art of UX copywriting requires a blend of empathy, creativity, and adaptability. By understanding your audience, keeping your copy clear and concise, collaborating with designers, and continuously learning and evolving, you’ll soon create user experiences that leave a lasting impact.
Want to ace your UX skills and take your copywriting expertise to the next level? Because let’s face it, with the emergence of ChatGPT, you’ve gotta up your game and show potential clients you’ve skills other than coming up with great words. Sign up for Susan Reoch’s Beyond Web Copy course. This course took my copywriting from average to high-level and ensures my books are full all year, working with businesses who value UX copy research and strategy. It’s the key to charging higher prices and booking those dream clients. There are limited spaces, so don’t dilly-dally. Book your space on Beyond Web Copy and elevate your UX skills.
(It is an affiliate link. But I’ve been yelling from the rooftops about this course ever since completing it, and that was without an affiliate. That’s because I hand on heart believe it’s one of the best ways to boost your copywriting career. UX isn’t going anywhere, so the more you know about it, the more in demand you’ll be!)