Live from Confab: Writing for Buttons (and Everything Else)

Writing for Buttons (and Everything Else): How UX Teams can Craft Stronger Copy, by Andrew Schmidt

What Differentiates Microcopy from Content?

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  • Users are not an audience. They’re here to accomplish a task, not to engage with you
  • You’re working on a cross-functional team
  • There’s jargon

Andrew provides four handy rules for writing microcopy:

  1. Be radically human
    • Make theĀ choice every day
    • It gets harder over time as you get more familiar with your product
  2. Look for emotional moments, and just be part of them
    • If a situation seems bizarre (why do we need an error message for that situation?) it’s likely because of a specific situation. Consider what the situation is.
  3. Get fresh eyes on your work
    • Editing someone else’s work makes you feel like a genius, because a 2nd set of eyes is great
  4. Be the expert
    • You have instincts that come from time and experience. Follow them.

Work with a Designer to Build Stronger Copy

UX writers have to work with designers. You are design partners. But most designers have never worked with a writer before. So you need to learn to work together.

  • Trust each other’s instincts
  • Have fuzzy conversations (it’s scary by ok!)
  • Play by improv rules: say “yes, and”

Craft User Flows

It’s often up to the content strategist to keep the product simple, but also as complex as it needs to be.

  • Only add nouns (or names) as a last resort. Each new noun is something your users have to learn.
  • Create the space for better language: rework and rethink interactions, along with the designer. That’s the difference between UX writing and copywriting.
  • Don’t write for an individual screen. Write for the flow.
  • Don’t design the simplest path. Design the most common path.

This will make for significantly stronger copy.

Establish Your Team

UX writers need to start at the same time as designers. But there are issues.

  • There might be a designer per project, but a UX writer on 3-4 projects
  • As workload increases, UX writers get busier and don’t have enough time to focus on “finalized” drafts

At Slack, the UX writers only work on the projects they think they can contribute to the most. They’re creating a style guide to help the projects they can’t be on.

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