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UX Writing: The Art of Designing Conversations

A new UX-related discipline emerges.

“It refers to the practice of writing small pieces of text that intend to help or guide users on various touchpoints as they interact with an interface. It primarily aims to establish a medium of communication between the user and the interface. It also helps in mending (or evading) any potential conflicts or discrepancies that users may face while interacting with a digital product. UX writing differentiates itself from other forms of writing by being extremely concise, yet communicating a lot of meaning at the same time.”

Ritwik Mital a.k.a. /ritwik-mittal ~ Galaxy Weblinks

Content strategy is a design function

Finally are we getting somewhere with design and content (‘Writing is a Design Discipline’).

Throughout my career, I’ve seen content strategy operate in a wide variety of ways. Sometimes it’s explicitly called strategy. Other times not. At some businesses, it’s highly valued. At others, it’s outsourced. Sometimes it’s run as a part of a larger line-of-business or integrated marketing team. Other times it’s wrapped into the design organisation. In many of these situations, content strategy can thrive. But across the board, in my experience, the companies that are successful in creating content-led experiences that deliver real value to their customers are the ones that see content strategy as a design function, not a management function.”

Matthew Rayback a.k.a. /matthew-rayback ~ Digital Drum

Writing as a design discipline: The Information Department of the Ulm School of Design and its impact on the school and beyond

Life is full of connections, to be made and to be found.

“At the Ulm School of Design (1953-1968), there was a promising approach to teaching visual as well as verbal communication. Although it took place in separate departments, this pioneering approach attempted to integrate form and content, theory and practice. From the school’s inception, the Information Department was established alongside the Departments of Visual Communication, Product Design and Building: writing was considered a discipline on a par with two- and three-dimensional design. While the Department of Visual Communication flourished, however, the Information Department languished, not least as a result of the school’s policy and staff conflicts. A closer look at the HfG’s history nevertheless reveals the Information Department’s overall importance to the school’s self-conception and attitude. Beyond its relevance for design history, this might also contribute to the discussion of a greater emphasis on verbal and writing competence in present day design education.”

David Oswald and Christiane Wachsmann ~ A/I/S/Design

UX writing and content strategy: What is the difference?

Just a matter of abstraction and focus.

“In this article, we explore how UX writing compares to content strategy. Since many are confused a bit about how UX writing fits in with content strategy, we compare the two fields and see how your business can use both of them to build an online presence and improve customer experience with digital products.”

Bridgette Hernandez ~ UXPA Magazine

UX writing: The case for user-centric language

Sometimes you just have to change the label to make a ‘new’ start.

“UX writing recognizes language as an intrinsic part of a user’s experience with a product. UX writers think intentionally about how words alone can facilitate – or get in the way of – users’ goals. As a discipline, UX writing lets you manipulate language. It helps you prod your users one step closer toward desired actions. Indeed, validating the effectiveness of language – on websites, apps, and other digital products – is just as important as other areas of UX research.”

Alana Schroeder a.k.a. /alana-schroeder | @ealanaschroeder ~ Boxes and Arrows

Chatbox UX: Crafting a valuable conversation

Is a chatbot UX the prototypical application of UX writing?

“All chatbots are not created equal. What separates a good chatbot from a bad one? A good chatbot helps users accomplish something more efficiently. A great one makes it enjoyable. A bad bot wastes time, returns nonsense, and may annoy or frustrate users enough to drive them away.”

Jennifer Leigh Brown a.k.a. /jleighbrown | @jennleighbrown ~ UXbooth

WTF is UX writing?!

Writing is thinking. For humans and machines.

“In this post, the Flip Script Media team is excited to share some insight about this little-known field that is involved in much of the UX design process. You might say it’s like the body’s central nervous system: when it’s doing its job well, everything else runs smoothly, everything feels right, and everyone looks good; but if it’s neglected, it can weigh the entire team down. And, when things go awry, you become numb and blinded by the actual truth. While we’re on the subject, let me dish it out to you: language is an integral part of the UX design process. Nowadays, too many businesses consider language as an afterthought, and it’s high time we do something about it as it affects product design, communications, marketing strategies, branding and image, community management, even social media, chatbots, and conversational spaces! For such a little-known field, that’s a BIG list.”

Samantha Bilodeau a.k.a. /samanthabilodeau | @SamB418 ~ Flip Script Media

Why your design team should hire a writer

Text creation as experience design. Finally!

“Designing a flow is a lot like writing a story — an interactive story. And to tell a compelling story, it helps to have a writer in the room. In product design, a writer becomes the narrator of your story, guiding the main character (your user) from scene to scene, screen by screen. Whether you call yourself a writer or a designer, you’ll probably be able to spot a lot of similarities between our two disciplines.”

Jophn Saito a.k.a. /johnmsaito | @saitojohn

How to design killer micro-content

Micro, nano or pico content.

“Micro-content is small. In fact, it can be some of the tiniest bits of a framework and when it is done well, it’s often pretty invisible. The definition of micro-content has expanded in recent years and what was just a term used to describe labeling and calls to action is much more in today’s landscape.”

Carrie Cousins a.k.a./carriecousins1 | @carriecousins ~ design shack

How words are the foundation of interaction design

From words to stories, even in interactions.

“The words you choose, and how you put them together, will greatly influence your product’s overall message – and we’ll explain how using some words of our own. Below we’ll show you why words are the base of interaction design and how to know the context of the copy.”

(Jerry Cao a.k.a. @jerrycao_uxpin ~ Sitepoint)

Reuse is a good tactic but a poor strategy

Reuse was the holy grail of code, now of content.

“(…) reusing text where you would have been writing substantially the same text anyway is clearly the right thing to do. But taking all the various ways in which you might express an important idea and combining them into one expression is a bad idea. Your idea will have more impact and more reach if it is expressed in different ways and in different media for different audiences, different purposes, and different occasions.”

(Mark Baker a.k.a. @mbakeranalecta ~ Every Page Is Page One)

Good writing and editing is part of great design

Design is making decisions shaping the materials you work with. How many decisions do you make when writing and shaping your words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories? Writing is designing.

“Good writing is arguably the most important piece of a design project. Yes, writing. It happens before the first sketch. And then it continues to happen throughout the design process as text is written, rewritten and edited multiple times.”

(Carrie Cousins a.k.a. @carriecousins ~ design shack)

Reading on the web: Implications for online information design

Reading, still one of the most important activities on the Web.

“This presentation will sketch our evolving conceptions of reading on the Web. It examines the empirical literature about reading online with a focus on how reading has changed between 1980 and 2010. To support this analysis, I profile some typical purposes for reading online and suggest what these purposes imply for designing content and for supporting the human relationships that we intend to enable. I also point to research about how effective writing and visual design can help people understand, remember, and appreciate online content while creating human relationships and enabling actions.”

(Karen Shriver a.k.a. @firstwren)

Content, the once and future king

Shaping compelling experiences with data, lots of them.

“This is a new sandbox for technologists, data scientists, marketers, and experience designers. What are the corpora we have access to? What is lurking within our data smog? What are the new experiences we can create? No doubt we will continue to see art and humor, but let’s use those to inspire us as we imagine what else is possible. The biggest potential (and as always the hardest problem) is in the development of game-changing experiences. I look forward to seeing where this goes.”

(Steve Portugal a.k.a. @steveportigal ~ ACM Interactions November + December 2012)

Writing better link texts

Nano copy design improves holistic UX.

“Linking from your content is important – it builds credibility and improves usability, which combined equals more satisfied readers and hopefully return visits. Finding the right material to link to takes time and effort; effort that is wasted if no one bothers to ‘Click here’.”

(Mich Walkden ~ Mich-communication)

Designing for Content: Creating a Message Hierarchy

In the end, hierarchy will be replaced by network.

“When we integrate content creation early in our web development processes, we are more effective at orienting our conversations to the end goals for the user and the business. This is a huge win for our users, who are increasingly demanding meaningful content experiences before they engage with our web sites and apps. It’s also vital to businesses, whose success depends on communicating value in ways that convert bystanders to buyers.”

(Stephanie Hay a.k.a. @steph_hay ~ Web Standards Sherpa)