Writing User Interface Text – A Complete Overview
User Xperience

Writing User Interface Text – A Complete Overview

4 minutes read

Habil Emmanuail Sep 18 2019

Writing User Interface Text

User interface text is copy written by UX designers so that people can interact with digital devices through text, menus and buttons.You might think that this terminology is something from the future. UX/ UI design is a term that was coined within this past decade, but the tech isn't new in any sense.

If you look back to the first computers, the screens displayed user interface text without visuals. These were text blocks, menus, and clickable buttons.

Clearing the Confusion

Since these are relatively new terms, people are often confused about the job description. There aren't many institutes that offer education in this new field and most articles on the topic add to the confusion. They talk about the different terms as synonyms.

The fact is that a UX writer, copywriter and content strategist do not have the same job.

UX writing, content strategy and copywriting are completely different fields.

A UX designer's job is to write an efficient user experience in text format or audio format which is clear and concise for the user to comprehend.

Copywriting is a term that existed before this tech and it is mainly used for writing advertisements.

Ads are used to gain attention by marketing a product.

In comparison the purpose of UX text is to share conversations in simple terms for everyone to easily understand it.

Content strategists plan out and manage content related to all digital services. They are strategists, not creators.

UI designers are mostly involved in visuals of a design.  All these people work together for a final product. Most times designers specialize in both UI and UX for an efficient work flow and share the responsibilities of a content strategist too.

A formal training in communication is given priority when it comes to hiring a UX writer. It helps improve communication between the product and the users immensely.

Teamwork

Another misunderstanding lies between developers and UX writers. Developers feel that they need to layout the entire product before getting the UX writers involved when in fact it is highly advised that the two work together from the get go. When you have text in front of you, you get a better feel of your product and the direction to take.

Developers and UX writers need to work together for a better product.

The UX writer has to together work with all departments in a company to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the text they write doesn't clash with anyone's objectives. For instance when they write something about the legal team, it should be what the team is actually doing and not something different.

Teamwork has to be an integral part of the design process.

Tips for Writing

The following rules aren't set in stone but surely help make better UI/ UX design.Creating a brand voice should be priority. All your visuals, text and audio design revolves around this. It helps users create a connection with the product. Always be concise when writing and use simple words to avoid confusion. Achieve clarity by avoiding jargon.

Understand the user's mindset. Most people don't bother reading long paragraphs and only scan the text for important information. If the required information is not easily visible or accessible, the user will not stay. Keep the bare minimum and essential text up front. If there is more text or additional information to read, the user can click a button (such as read more) at his own convenience. This is especially helpful for smaller screens and devices.

Writing for menus and buttons requires attention to detail just the same. Mentioning the objective or command should be priority so the user can easily find what he's looking for. Avoid confusion by using the same words instead of looking for synonyms. In a user copy consistency is important. Write in the present tense using an active voice. This makes your copy more precise and keeps the reader interested. Writing numerals for numbers also helps to be precise.

Avoid clickbait at all cost. Every element of your product should clearly identify its purpose and it should not misguide the user.

Another important aspect of the product that designers have overlooked in the past is the error messages. No piece of tech is perfect and errors are bound to happen. Take the notorious blue screen of death for example. Such errors were full of jargon and technical terms that the user did not understand. If the error message had clickable options,  people would click ok or exit without actually understanding what the message meant. Now designers have to create text that is easy to understand and relatable for the user. It might be aided with appropriate visuals and the buttons should easily guide the user back to the main screen.

UX designers can add humor to their texts, error messages and visuals but subtlety in humor is appreciated. You do not want to go overboard and offend the user.

The Future of UX

The terminology has changed and will keep on changing with the evolution of tech, but the job of a UX writer will remain the same. No matter what the platforms, writing copy for end users will always be integral for any business. It is now a field that will be taught at schools and there are endless resources online to get started.

Habil Emmanuail

Habil Emmanuail

Habil is an IBM certified Design Thinking practitioner and a member of the Interaction Design Foundation. He has been working as a UX consultant and User Centered designer across web and mobile applications for almost four years. His area of expertise include UI/UX Design, UX Research, Visual UI Design, Prototyping, Information Architecture, Agile Scrum, Branding as well as HTML/CSS, UX Writing, Research and Analytics and Strategy and Planning.