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June 24, 2019
3 easy steps to writing effective UI copy

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The User Interface (UI) is comprised of all the elements on a screen or page that users interact with. The most common types of writing you’ll be asked to do for UI includes buttons, error messages, form fields etc.

Simple right?

Now think about how many words exist in an entire app or website.

It’s up to you as the UX writer (or maybe you’re a designer, PM or even dev) to find the 2 perfect words that not only fit in with the rest of the copy but also drive action.

Oh yes, and they need to be translatable into 50+ languages.

Also, the design’s kinda locked in, so if you could just work with that, that would be great…

Uh, did I mention the deadline is now?

I’ll just stand here and wait…

It’s a lot of pressure for limited characters. Hell, it’s a lot of pressure for you.

So before you do anything else, do these three things.

1. Define the goal

Do you want to increase conversions, make the user feel something, or explain a complex process?

Whatever it is that you’re hoping to achieve will ultimately guide the language you use.

It’s possible that it won’t be up to you as the writer to define the goal entirely yourself. In that case, make sure to ask the powers that be what they want out of your copy.

However, part of your value as a UX Writer is being able to put yourself in the users’ shoes. So if you have an opinion on what you think the outcome should be, don’t be afraid of sharing that as well.

2. Look at what went before and what goes after

Ask yourself:

  • How did someone end up here? It’s a combination of what they read and what they want.
  • And where are they going next? Have a look at what the next few screens in the flow look like.

This information will help you frame your message to create a seamless experience. The last thing you want is something that breaks with the tone or feels out of place.

As a whole, the copy should feel like a conversation. You’re just writing one line.

3. Look for similar pieces of copy that do the same thing

If you write a lot of UI copy for apps, you’re probably used to doing this on the daily.

See if you can find similar pieces of copy in the other apps. For example, if you’re working on iOS, has this feature already been rolled out on the Android version?

Or is it a CTA button directing somewhere repetitively throughout?

Consistency is key to good UX writing. A cohesive whole is more impactful than one stand out piece of copy.

I also always look at what competitors are doing. Sometimes this offers inspiration. Sometimes it’s a good lesson in what not to do!

Do you have any processes in place for nailing UI copy? Let us all know in the comments.

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