Two things that can make or break a user’s experience: copy and design. They are both essential and equally responsible for guiding the user through the steps of how to use your product. Great writing can enhance the user experience, just as subpar instructions can hamper your otherwise wonderful UI.

Here are 7 tips to write copy that leads to a great user experience:

1. Practice simplicity

No matter how technical the product is or how sophisticated its features, always aim to break things down to the lowest common denominator. Use simple language so that the average person (without technical training) can understand. Don’t use technical language and then trying to explain what it means–the more technical and specific you get, the less likely the reader will stick with you. Communicate the absolute minimum information your reader needs to understand the major components of the product and how to use it.

2. Taper instructions

If this is an app, exhaustive or repetitive instructions are counterproductive. Don’t repeat information on the tenth step in case they didn’t read it in the first. Taper the length of explanations and descriptions over the course of the experience. Detailed instructions will come first, then become more brief as the user gets the hang of it. Instructions are like training wheels on a bike: the goal is not to need them after some time. The design of the product should allow it to become self-explanatory after some initial instruction. If long, descriptive instructions are necessary throughout, then there may be a design flaw that overcomplicates use.

Learning to Wireframe: 10 Best Practices

3. Become one with the product

UX writing differs from content writing. Content writing is about creating a voice that readers can relate to. UX writing is about creating the best possible way for someone to understand how to use and enjoy a product. UX writing should reflect the product and its features, not the writer’s vision of the product or their opinion. Eliminate unnecessary adjectives and qualifiers. For example, imagine teaching someone to left-click on the tools tab. You may say, “Easily left-click on the tools tab for an awesome experience.” Or you could simplify and say, “Left-click on the tools tab.” The less convoluted the instructions, the easier the action seems.

Wireframing is a great place to start with actual copy – don’t use Lorem Ipsum, or you’re squandering an opportunity to learn what your labels and options should really say.

4. Write descriptions with FAQs in mind

Predict the questions users might ask and address them in your descriptions. Product testing, user comments and experiences will all help you identify any potentially confusing stages in using your product. Integrate these questions into your instructions. For example, if people are used to syncing with devices, but your product syncs with a cloud, point that out as one of its features before you have to respond to 50 messages asking why it’s not syncing with their devices. You want to be sure to give the user a heads up about the way your product may be different from what they’re used to. Anticipate questions and seed within your instructions to avoid future headaches.

5. Don’t make them beg for information

Users appreciate a straightforward approach. Sneaky antics like asking them to provide an email so you can send them a price list may result in them going elsewhere. They are the ones looking for information, and it is your job to provide it to them. Asking your website visitors for information first has three problems:

  1. You ask them to jump the trust barrier and believe that providing you with their email address won’t result in years of spam
  2. You require them to take an extra step a competitor might not ask them to do
  3. In the age of instant gratification, you’re asking your potential customers to wait for your reply

When you’ve got them on the hook, you want to make it as simple as possible for users to take action. Offer them the information they need to make a decision about your product on the spot. Provide call to action buttons that make it easy for them to take the next step.

6. Make sure it is easy to read

Good copy can easily get buried under a poor layout. The same information offered up in a different format will yield vastly different results from your users. Hardly anyone is going to start at the top of the page and read every single word until they get to the bottom. They’re going to scan to find the essential information, so make your page scan-friendly. Provide users a visual that is easy on the eyes, no small print or hard to read fonts. Make sure the color of the text is compatible with the color of the background so that it doesn’t strain the eye.

Everyone is a Designer View Reading List

Provide visual divisions between ideas by providing blank space, changing font size or making the font bold. Use lists and bullet points instead of long descriptive paragraphs. Use left-aligned text which is easier to read than center or right adjusted text. That’s the bare minimum you can do. The sky’s the limit with how interactive and beautiful you can make your site. Check out this link for inspiration.

7. Address the user

Finally, using “you” instead of “we” is an easy technique to create intimacy between you and the user. Simply put, saying “you” makes the reader feel you’re talking to them. Using “we” on the other hand, makes them feel like they’re listening to you talk about yourself. Ex: “You’ll be able to organize your notes and ideas more efficiently with Evernote.” vs. “We at Evernote have created a revolutionary way to organize notes and ideas.” The first one tells the user about how they can benefit from your product. The second one tells them how clever you and your team are. Which one will get them to sign up? Exactly.

The best user experiences are built by effective design and clear copy. Keep it simple, anticipate questions, be upfront and talk to the user. If the design and the copy are in sync, most of your work is behind you. Good luck!

Comments