Why Copywriters are Necessary for Great Experiences

By Jeremy Johnson
Vice President of Customer Experience, projekt202

Originally published on Medium

An experience is more than the customer understanding and more than the visual design -- it’s also how it reads.

The copy of an experience many times falls into the same trap UX would historically fall into: the thing that is slapped on at the end of a project. As companies mature to focus on the experience, and UX is well integrated into strategy and product development, it’s time to help push for good copy as well.

Who writes interface copy today? Designers, developers, marketers, customer service reps, tech writers — or some combination of the above, depending on how your organization is set up. Many times, while you can get OK results from any number of the people in these groups, there are actually people who not only specialize, but can devote the appropriate amount of time to the betterment of your experience.

What does good copy look like? UX designer and copywriter Talisa Chang says that, just like user experience, good copy considers the user, the context, the flow, business goals and the brand. Not an easy task. She goes on to point out that good copy can reduce ambiguity, puts the audience first, and is well researched.

Writers are trained in tone, style and grammar, and can make something cohesive, smart and interesting. They help promote a feeling that the tool, app or experience is tailored specifically for the end users.

Integrating a copywriter throughout your project helps in a number of ways:

  • The design team can start to move to designing for content vs. content trying to fit to the designs — and usually failing to do so well.
  • They can keep you honest about actually labeling things correctly for accessibility — something that us visual thinkers sometimes miss.
  • Reduce clutter in the UI to get straight to the point.
  • Double checking your cleverness with some good old-fashioned “No one overseas is going to get that reference.”
  • Making sure you’re near that sweet spot of 5th-grade reading level for general audiences. This is also now mandatory for all federal government websites.
  • Keeping your brand tone across applications.

From a metrics perspective, copy helps tremendously with onboarding — a key success criteria for many software products. What is this and what’s the value? What am I supposed to do first? How do I complete this task? And while I do still believe the best experience is one that doesn’t have to be explained, in the workplace and with new experiences that haven’t really existed before,  it’s important.

Conversion is another place the written word shines. Simple phrasing like “Click Here” vs. “Click Here to Get Started” vs. “Click Here to Get Started for Free Instant Access” can have direct conversion impact on a site. There is an art to getting people excited to scan their thumbs or input their credit card numbers to complete those purchases they’ve been researching across 10 different sites. Copy can nudge someone past any number of fears around:

  • How long something will take to get to them?
  • Can the thing be returned?
  • Is this the cheapest place to buy?
  • Is this the best deal?
  • Can I trust them with my information?

This rolls right into putting users at ease, which can cross both consumer and enterprise situations. If I press this, what will happen next? Will I break something? Can I undo? Can I get back to this page? When people are learning a new system -- and we’ve all been there - we don’t want that feeling of incompetence or that we’ll break something. That can be solved with good copywriting that takes into consideration the wording, phrases, user flow and context of the application.

Content marketing is hot right now. Of course, we all like engaging content that’s relevant. But making sure that copy hits the right points for your users is key. Everything from what terminology do they use to what they’re searching for on Google goes into a content strategy that builds out the ideal content at the right time across your customers' journeys.

What’s great about content strategy is that UX methods feed this strategy. Personas, customer experience journey maps and workflows all help build that customer understanding, so that you can write what they want and need to become successful in their lives or workplaces.

Think about all the writing that goes into an application: buttons, CTAs, error messages, process steps, labels, navigation, call-outs, notifications, links and instructions. The way things are phrased are really important, but many times overlooked. Think about who is NOT spending time focusing on this key component to your site or application. This is why copywriting is needed as a separate role on any project; it’s the combination of skills and time that makes something successful.

Another reason to start this process today? You need to get ready for a future of chatbots and personal assistants. What does your brand “sound” like as a chatbot? What tone and what words does your brand use to converse with your customers? How does your app literally talk via an Amazon Echo or Google Home? What does that conversation tree look like? What does your design process look like when there’s no visual or interaction design?

As a UX designer, I highly recommend getting a copywriter on your team and integrated into your process today. While this article — via the Hemingway app — has a readability at a 9th-grade level and the app tells me 14 of the above sentences are “very hard to read,” I never said I was a copywriter.

If you’re looking for UX teams that embrace copywriting as part of the software development process, check out projekt202.com.


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