5 UX Copywriting Mistakes To Avoid
Writing copy for your mobile app? Don't start until you read this blog. But before we get crackin', let’s start this piece with a story.
A few years back, I was helping a team develop a new luxury neighborhood cafe in Asia. We burned the midnight oil testing product prototypes, designing customer experiences and curating its overall branding. During the pre-launch phase, one of the writers we were working with, Susan (not her real name), was assigned to lead in writing the positioning statements, storylines and advertising copies needed for the soft launch. These narratives are crucial as they will determine the tone for the brand’s future marketing and PR activities.
In her writing, she used quirky catchphrases and idioms from the ’50s combined with modern lingo. The copy turned out to be highly poetic and incomprehensible at first read. Though her creativity shined through, the bosses deemed that it wasn’t going to work. It would’ve confused the customer who was just looking to grab a croissant and an iced latte before heading to the office.
From what I have observed, Susan wrote to express her own creativity and not what the potential customers needed to read in order to help them make a decision during their next coffee run.
Susan ended up rewriting the whole deck. Timelines were adjusted which cost the business potential revenue gains. This happened because Susan, simply wrote what she wanted, but not what the customers needed and could have resonated with.
The lack of empathy in the writing process almost set the concept to fail. Prior to the rewrite, Susan took the time to get to know the target customers and placed herself in their shoes. She understood their personal needs, motivations and aspirations and studied how this can be used to bring them into the business. She submitted another batch of copies and things suddenly looked bright. The copy was clear, engaging and relatable! We used them in our advertising efforts and the cafe ended up a hit. We were able to connect with the customers deeply through relatable storylines and of course, sumptuous pastries and kickass coffee.
This clearly showed that in business, copywriting matters. Effective copies bring customers in, while bad writing turns them away – or worse, your target customers might not even reach the store’s doorstep.
This goes the same in the world of UX, great UX copy is vital to the success of any user experience design. Because without good UX copy, a user won’t be able to properly interact with the product and convert for business’ sake.
Imagine opening a mobile banking app with no text in sight. You’ll only find images, numbers, blank forms, buttons, empty drop-down menus and random programming codes that keep popping up on the page. It’s just downright confusing, right? You won’t know what you’re supposed to do next or what these buttons are for. This is a world without UX copywriting.
What is UX Copywriting?
UX copywriting is the art of writing that enhances user experiences within an interface. Interfaces may vary – it could be a website, a mobile app, wearables and other types of digital products in need of clarity on how to best use the product. These are the instructional text that you can find in your mobile app buttons, lightboxes, error messages, online data forms, and landing pages. UX copy enables your product and customers to interact with each other in the most convenient way possible. Ultimately, they are the text that turns app users from spectators to buyers.
Good UX copywriting prioritizes user empathy, clarity, functionality and readability. In the process of delivering the best ones for our products, mistakes are inevitable. After all, we’re just humans, but being aware of potential mistakes can help us avoid them during our app writing process.
5 UX Writing Mistakes To Avoid
Write For Yourself
UX copywriting takes its customer’s needs into great consideration. When writing for your app, you shouldn’t be writing in the tone that you want. Write in accordance with branding and what your customers need. All in a manner that they would understand.
The simplest way to test this is to test the app yourself and those around you (better if they fit your user archetypes for better testing) and ask:
- Does this content communicate what I want the user to do next?
- Is it easy to understand?
- Am I using too much jargon?
- Is the copy conversational enough for the target user to inspire conversion?
- Will this copy help them achieve their goals and address their needs or aspirations?
Your content must clearly speak to your specific user and won’t leave them guessing about their next move.
Not Familiarizing Yourself With Your Users
The key to writing with empathy is knowing your target users well. Refer to your product’s user archetypes and understand their user behaviors, pain points, preferences and the language they speak.
As an example, if you’re building an app for senior citizens, you shouldn’t write copies that have modern colloquialisms and pop culture lingo. It is inappropriate and more often than not, they would just abandon the app to find ones that they can easily comprehend and give clear actionable instructions.
Bombarding Users With So Many Details
Developing an app is exciting and it’s tempting to migrate all your website content to the app. Writing for an app isn’t the same as writing for your website. Writing for the mobile interface should be succinct while giving the most impact. The challenge of creating good UX copy lies in the ability to clearly communicate a whole lot using the fewest words possible.
Apps are built to speed things up and not to slow them down, so when writing copy for your app, include only relevant information, be concise and keep on editing. Don’t launch content that would take users over a minute to read or take the risk of losing them midway.
Not Being Upfront
Invest in writing exceptional onboarding content. Briefly explain what your app is for and keep the series of onboarding content clear and concise. To avoid jumpy users, emphasize your value proposition and ask for essential data and permissions upfront. Don’t forget to give users clarity on how you intend to use their personal data to enhance their experience. Apps with bad onboarding experiences (brought about by unengaging content, questionable data collection methods and unclear copy) discourage users from further engaging with your product. This is especially if they don’t have a good understanding of what they’ll get out of your product.
Not Explaining Error Messages
We don’t like being greeted by error messages when we’re using our apps, but it’s inevitable. Some pages and features may not load due to poor internet connection, server errors or system limitations but your users won’t know that unless you tell them.
Aside from functional copies on buttons, navigational menus and relevant pages, error messages should also be written well. A well-written error message should explain the generic cause of the error and what the user should do next to troubleshoot and successfully proceed with the session. This helps the user confidently navigate their way through simple technical road bumps and save time without the need to call customer service.
Circling back to Susan’s story, it’s important to emphasize that empathy is the cornerstone of UX copywriting. In order for us to effectively communicate with our users and customers, we must understand their pain points, needs, limitations, and preferences, and be mindful of their own customer journey within the app.
To put it simply, words matter and how you use them to create great user experiences matter more.