UX writing is the art and science of creating clear, concise and engaging content for websites and apps. UX writers craft the words that guide users through their digital experiences, from buttons and menus to error messages and notifications. UX writing is not just about writing well, but also about writing for a specific context, audience and goal.
In this blog post, we will explore some of the better practices and principles of UX writing, and how they can help you create user-friendly content that reduces cognitive load, increases conciseness and simplicity, and enhances scanability. We will also provide some examples of good and bad UX writing, and some tips on how to improve your own skills.
Reducing Cognitive Load
Cognitive load is a shorthand term for the amount of mental effort required to process information. The more cognitive load a user experiences, the more likely they are to feel overwhelmed, frustrated and confused. Simple. To reduce cognitive load, you should aim to show only what needs to be shown, and avoid presenting excessive options or dropping things in that do not pertain to the subject at hand.
One way to reduce cognitive load is to use progressive disclosure, which is a technique of revealing information gradually, as the user needs it. E.g., instead of showing all the details of a product on one page, you can use a "show more" button or a collapsible section to hide some of the information until they click on it. This way, you leave the choice up to them.
Another way to reduce cognitive load is to really focus on clarity and conciseness - the reasons being obvious. E.g., if you use the term "sign up" on one page, do not use "register" or "create account" on another page. Similarly, if you use the term "cart" on one page, do not use "basket" or "bag" on another page. Using consistent labels and terminology helps users understand what they need to do and where they need to go, without having to think too much.
Conciseness and Simplicity
Conciseness and simplicity are two of the most important qualities of good UX writing. There are certain things you wanna keep in mind basically all the time, such as the:
- Use of short sentences and paragraphs. Aim for an average sentence length of 10-15 words or less, and an average paragraph length of 3-4 sentences or less.
- Use of active voice instead of passive voice. Active voice brings clarity to your writing by clearly identifying the subject performing the action. It makes your sentences more direct and easier to understand, leaving little room for ambiguity or confusion. It flows naturally, creating a rhythm that is easier for readers to follow and comprehend. For example, "You can edit your profile" is active voice, while "Your profile can be edited" is passive voice. Active voice is more direct, clear and engaging than passive voice.
- Use of simple words instead of complex words. Avoid jargons, technical terms and when you do use them, make sure to explain what they mean. Being overly verbose is just a bad look in general, it comes across as immature and insecure.
Scanability is the ability of users to quickly scan your content and find the information they need. Scanability is important because most users do not read every word on a website or app; they skim through it until they find what they are looking for. Some ways to improve scanability are as follows:
- Begin your text with an objective followed by the action needed to achieve it. For example, instead of saying "To change your password, go to settings and click on account", say "Change your password: Settings > Account". This way, you can help users identify their goal and the steps they need to take.
- Use visual hierarchy throughout your content. I.e., use different sizes, colors, fonts and styles to emphasize the most important elements of your content. E.g., use headings and subheadings to organize your content into sections and subsections; use bold or italic text to highlight keywords or phrases; use bullet points or numbered lists to present multiple items or options; use white space to separate different blocks of content; use icons or images to illustrate concepts or features.