UX Writing: How to Find the Right Words for Your Interface
Words are persuasive. They can empower people, or they can make them feel lost. With just one word in an app or a website, you can engage and build trust with your users or, alternatively, lead them to frustration.
When it comes to user experience, we tend to focus largely on graphic elements such as color, button appearance, and font. But how much time do we dedicate to writing the text that will be in our interfaces? Probably not enough, right? Perhaps this is the reason we find ourselves struggling to find the right words for our users.
In this post, you will find five suggestions that will help you enhance the experience for your users through UX writing.
Finding the right words in UX writing
1. Write for every user
- One of the most important elements of successful UX writing is establishing a connection to your audience and your brand. Start by doing research and use the data you collect to help you better understand who your user is going to be. If you are not familiar with your brand, take some time to learn the guidelines, study the brand book, and get familiar with your tone and voice.
- Your text should be plain but specific, since most users only scan the screen, rather than read the text in its entirety. And always provide guidance for your user; tell the user where they are, what to do, how to do it, and include any next steps.
- Finally, avoid using jargon, slang, and technical naming in your writing. It is usually best not to include the UI control names in your text.
2. Remain consistent with your words
- Be sure to keep the same voice and tone throughout your text. To make this easier, you can track your text in a spreadsheet inventory.
- Don’t mix pronouns. For example, say “your album” and “your profile” rather than “your album” and “our profile.”
- Avoid using synonyms; word repetition can decrease the cognitive load for the users.
3. Think about usability and accessibility
- Use verbs to describe the functionality of the controls. Tell the user what the element does so they know before they click/tap it. Avoid using words like “okay.” Instead, use verbs like “save,” “sent,” or “delete.”
- The labels for the controls should be clear and call for the users to take a specific action. For example, do not use only “name” or “email” in a form field. Instead, use “enter your name” or “enter your email.”
- Keep your text short. This helps avoid a large cognitive load for the users, especially for those who may have cognitive impairments.
- Some users navigate screens with the help of a screen reader. To address this, stay away from labels on links like “continue” or “see more.” Be more specific in your text so that screen readers can tell users what to do.
- Use the whole word or concept instead of the initialisms, as not every user is aware of these meanings.
4. Error messages
- Your error message should feel friendly and human. Avoid only displaying a technical error code, such as “500 Internal Server Error.”
- Try not to point fingers at the user. This could cause the user to become frustrated, ultimately resulting in a poor user experience. Instead, it is better to give a simple explanation of what went wrong and then offer a solution.
5. Review, test, and edit your text
- When you have your text ready, take a pause. Go for a cup of tea or stretch your legs. Then, take your text and read it aloud. Run it through a screen-reader, or ask a colleague to read it aloud, too. This way, you will know if you need to edit your work.
To summarize, your UX writing should be simple, human, and short. Beyond that, remember that words have power and you can help your user fall in love with your app or website by making small tweaks, such as switching a single sentence or rewriting the text that appears in a form or a button.