Are ‘UX writers’ the next big thing?

If you search for UX designer jobs on LinkedIn today, you get 1999 results in the US and 525 in the UK. If you search for UX researcher, you get 273 results in the US and 41 in the UK.

No surprises here: by now, designers are well-established in the UX world, and researchers have also become more visible and influential figures in the industry.

Now, compare these job searches for UX writer:

UX-writer-UK

UX-writer-US
0 results in the UK, 25 in the US. Based on this, you could be tempted to dismiss UX writer as a virtually irrelevant role.

Well, think again. The 25 US-based roles are being offered by companies such as Dropbox, Apple, Google, PayPal & the like. And if they have started advertising for the role, we should probably pay a little more attention.

I think we may (finally!) have a new kid on the UX block.

 

…but what is a UX writer? 

We talk a lot about producing clear, persuasive, effective copy for our websites/ apps / eCom platforms / marketing activities / etc., and give each other pats on the back when we manage to come up with a particularly successful product description, newsletter issue, blog post, or user guide.

What we don’t do is pay anywhere near as much attention to ‘other’ copy, that is, all the words that end up in user instructions, error messages, form labels, hints, success and confirmation messages, and generally help people understand where they are, what they can do, and how.

I am talking about copy like this:

UX-writer-wordpress

UX-writer-hotjar

UX-writer-apple

(examples from WordPress, Hotjar, Apple respectively)

In my experience, and likely in that of others in the industry, we pay very little attention to this kind of copy because… it’s just nobody’s job to. More often than not, what designers write as a temporary placeholder in a wireframe ends up on finished websites with no changes; occasionally, these bits of copy might even get edited by developers during build—which is why optimisation pros like Craig Sullivan then find enormous success in the smallest copy changes, since language that has not been crafted carefully leaves a lot of room for improvement:

UX-writer-craig-sullivan(from Craig’s Elite Camp 2016 slide deck)

UX writers should be responsible for writing helpful, clear, user-centric text to guide users through an experience and its touchpoints. Here are a few quotes from the job ads I found on LinkedIn today:

  • Help shape product experiences by crafting copy that helps users complete the task at hand. (Google)
  • Create copy that’s straightforward, helpful, and human… always asking could this be clearer? and could this be shorter? (Dropbox)
  • Create clear, consistent, and compelling content for interactive user experiences. (PayPal)
  • Deliver clarity, brevity, and efficacy in content. (Amazon)

 

To sum up:

UX writers seem to be a much needed new breed of (technical) copywriters with a very obvious UX twist.

Is this the next ‘big’ thing in our industry? It’s about time, and I really hope so.