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Writing for buttons (and everything else): How UX teams can craft stronger copy

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Done well, UX writing can bring both approachability and humanity to even the most technical software. So let’s do it well.

In a quick 45 minutes, we’ll do a top-to-toes study of UX writing. It all starts with microcopy — and some helpful rules for writing it — before we zoom out to cover working with designers, crafting user flows, and establishing a UX writing team.

Come for the GIFs, stay for the hard-earned insights. There are many.

Published in: Design
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Writing for buttons (and everything else): How UX teams can craft stronger copy

  1. 1. 👋 Hello, Confab Andrew Schmidt, Slack
  2. 2. WRITING FOR BUTTONS WRITING FOR BUTTONS WRITING FOR BUTTONS WRITING FOR BUTTONS and everything else
  3. 3. Working with designers Crafting user flows Establishing your team Writing microcopy
  4. 4. Working with designers Establishing your team Crafting user flows Writing microcopy
  5. 5. Mostly, writing microcopy is like writing anything else. WRITING MICROCOPY
  6. 6. A few key differences: • Users ≠ audience. They’re here to accomplish a task. • You’re working on a cross-functional team. • It’s weirder. There’s jargon. WRITING MICROCOPY
  7. 7. Four handy rules for writing microcopy WRITING MICROCOPY
  8. 8. 1. Be radically human " • You have to choose to do this, actively, every day. • And it gets harder over time. WRITING MICROCOPY
  9. 9. 2. Look for emotional moments, and just be part of them • This is the opposite of “making a moment happen.” • Don’t do that. • Instead, this is about finding the moments that are already there. WRITING MICROCOPY
  10. 10. WRITING MICROCOPY
  11. 11. 3. Get fresh eyes on it • Editing someone else’s work makes you feel like a genius. • Be that genius for your teammates. • Ask your teammates to be that for you. WRITING MICROCOPY
  12. 12. 4. Be the expert • Taste & instincts come from time & experience. • Yours is the judgment we’re following. • But matters of taste can be hard to defend. WRITING MICROCOPY
  13. 13. WRITING MICROCOPY
  14. 14. 1. Be radically human 2. Look for emotional moments 3. Get fresh eyes on it 4. Be the expert Writing microcopy
  15. 15. Writing microcopy Establishing your team Crafting user flows Working with designers
  16. 16. Crafting user flows Writing microcopy Establishing your team Working with designers
  17. 17. This is your most important relationship, your partner on that Chicago picnic. WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  18. 18. Because… • You’re facing the same problems… • …and balancing the same feedback. • And, of course: you’re going to make things together. WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  19. 19. Most designers have never worked with a writer. It’s up to you to make this work. WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  20. 20. 1. Trust each other’s instincts WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  21. 21. WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  22. 22. 2. Have fuzzy conversations WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  23. 23. WORKING WITH DESIGNERS Writer’s skillset Designer’s skillset
  24. 24. WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  25. 25. WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  26. 26. 3. Play by improv rules • You’re going to be asking your designer to try a lot of things that sound silly. • You need to be willing to try silly things, too. • Never give an immediate “no.” Start with “yes, and…” WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  27. 27. A quick note about humans… WORKING WITH DESIGNERS
  28. 28. Trust each other’s instincts Have fuzzy conversations Play by improv rules Working with designers
  29. 29. Writing microcopy Establishing your team Working with designers Crafting user flows
  30. 30. Working with designers Writing microcopy Establishing your team Crafting user flows
  31. 31. This is the heart of it, 
 where UX writing comes into its own. CRAFTING USER FLOWS
  32. 32. This is where you do your best work • You keep the product conceptually simple… • But also appropriately complicated. • And, yeah: you choose the very best words. CRAFTING USER FLOWS
  33. 33. Keep the product conceptually simple • Only add nouns as a last resort. • Because: each new noun is just one more thing your users have to learn. CRAFTING USER FLOWS
  34. 34. But also appropriately complicated • Don’t just write better words. 
 Create the space for better language. • By: rethinking, reworking, and redesigning. • That’s the difference between UX writing & copywriting. CRAFTING USER FLOWS
  35. 35. CRAFTING USER FLOWS
  36. 36. Don’t write for a single screen. Write for the whole flow. CRAFTING USER FLOWS
  37. 37. CRAFTING USER FLOWS Example flow: “The free trial offer”
  38. 38. Example flow: “The free trial offer” CRAFTING USER FLOWS User can accept offer → ✓ User can’t, but someone else can → ✓ User can’t accept offer → X
  39. 39. Don’t start with the simplest path. Start with the most common. CRAFTING USER FLOWS
  40. 40. Example flow: “The free trial offer” CRAFTING USER FLOWS User can accept offer → ✓ User can’t, but someone else can → ✓ User can’t accept offer → X ✓ User can’t, but someone else can →
  41. 41. Keep the product conceptually simple. But also appropriately complicated. Don’t write for a screen. Write for the whole flow. Start with the most common path. Crafting user flows
  42. 42. Writing microcopy Working with designers Crafting user flows Establishing your team
  43. 43. Working with designers Crafting user flows Writing microcopy Establishing your team
  44. 44. There are many ways to establish a team. Here’s what we did. ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM
  45. 45. 1. We started by taking requests ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM
  46. 46. Downsides? ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM
  47. 47. 🏁 ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM Kickoff Project manager Designer Engineers UX writer Life of a project
  48. 48. 2. We paired up with designers • We started working as an embedded member of cross- functional teams. • This gets us involved earlier. • And it’s a good way to work. We found our groove. ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM
  49. 49. 🏁 ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM Kickoff Project manager Designer Engineers UX writer Life of a project
  50. 50. Downsides? • Lots of context switching. • As the workload increases, we’ve wound up shipping rougher and rougher drafts. ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM
  51. 51. 3. What’s next? • We’re getting more choosey, covering just the projects we think we can contribute to most. • And we’re going to try a menu of services for the projects we aren’t covering. ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM
  52. 52. We’re making this up as we go along, but we’re making it up together. ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM
  53. 53. 1. Start by taking requests 2. Next, pair up with designers 3. Finally, get choosey Establishing your team
  54. 54. • Trust each other’s instincts • Have fuzzy conversations • Play by improv rules WORKING WITH DESIGNERS CRAFTING USER FLOWS • Keep the product conceptually simple • But appropriately complicated • Start with the most common path ESTABLISHING YOUR TEAM • Start by taking requests • Next, pair up with designers • Finally, get choosey WRITING MICROCOPY • Be radically human • Look for emotional moments • Get fresh eyes on it • Be the expert
  55. 55. 🙏 Thanks! Andrew Schmidt, Slack

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