"I’ve always loved writing. Still, I loved many other things when I was about to choose my career path. So I ended up a UX designer, but my heart started to beat faster and louder when I first woke up to the truth: Writing makes up a determinative part of UX. As I always try to dive ever deeper into the field of UX writing, I also try to look for inspiration and information from key persons. We at UX studio like to learn from the most professional, so I decided to ask Yuval Keshtcher, leader of the UX writing community, a few things on this topic. Luckily, he honored us with a conversation on UX writing."
Hi Yuval, thanks a lot for taking the time to have this discussion today.
Thank you for inviting me.
We consider you the leader of the UX writing community. How did you achieve this? What was your path and what motivated you?
Basically, I started as a product designer and worked for different companies. Back then, a few years ago, nobody paid attention to microcopy or UX writing. Not at all. So I decided to explore this field because I found it so weird that people did not pay attention to it at all.
I also noticed that companies that do pay attention to it have better user experience for their products. And, you know, user experience makes up the whole thing, the whole experience.
Pixel location doesn’t matter. The messaging, the communication, everything does. And many people didn’t focus on it at all. They focused too much on their technical side or even visual design, but nothing about the communication.
So I decided to read about it. Not a lot of content covered it back then. So I opened the Facebook group and invited everyone I know to enter this group and share what they know. I wanted one place I could learn from. And eventually, after a lot of hard work, the Facebook group exploded, and the many, many influencers from this industry joined and contributed to the discussion.
Even though many consider me the leader of the community, like you said, I think it’s mostly about the people, the community. They are doing an amazing job. They’re sharing their experiences, learning from each other, teaching each other. So it’s not about me, but the community as a whole.
“I just contribute as much as I can to move and shift this industry forward.”
Maybe you consider me to be the leader, because I opened the group or because I decided to give more to the community – to open a website that will be dedicated to the community, a blog for a community.
The community asked me personally for a course. So I gave them a course. They asked for a newsletter. I created a weekly newsletter. They asked for a job board. I opened the job board. So that made me like that, not because I consider myself the leader. I just contribute as much as I can to move and shift this industry forward.
Yeah, I assume this Facebook group must inspire all the members. And what power do you think this Facebook group has?
You can see that many companies – the biggest companies in the world – write about it. So I guess it’s become pretty powerful. Typeform just mentioned us in one of their posts which is pretty cool.
The power comes from the people actually making a change for the group. And it’s not about the group at all, it’s not about Facebook. It’s about the people inside. It’s in the current medium that we chose. It could be another medium. It’s only about the people. It’s not about a Facebook group, it’s about people that look for inspiration. It’s about people that want to influence each other, people that want to thrive in their profession. It’s about that.
How would you define UX writing? How do the terms “UX writing” and “microcopy” or other related phrases that mean almost the same differ?
So lately we’ve started a podcast, Writers in Tech, because of the many titles you can say today. You have UX writers, content strategists, so many names for writers in tech. And the best UX writers out there just call themselves jacks of all trades. They write for the marketing team, the localization team, content strategists. They write for the product itself, which we consider UX writing.
“…the best UX writers out there will tell you that they’re just jacks of all trades”.
Microcopy comprises the words that guide users through an interface. Microcopy can come from a UX writer, a front end developer, a designer. Just like a developer can move pixels around and we don’t consider them as designers, right? So everybody can write microcopy. The UX writer should guide the team how to write the microcopy.
UX writers deals with guiding the user through an interface with better communication. They can rewrite a screen but they can also define a complete flow like a product designer needs to, like a UX designer needs to. And they eventually write it in a better way so it will communicate in a better way. Make sense?
Yes, sure. So, do you think that UX writing makes up an essential part of product design? Do you think it gets enough attention?
First question: yes; second: no. Of course I consider it really important. Some would call it more important than product design. A hard thing to say, but some would say that. I recently spoke with Yves Van Kerkhove, a writer in a team that doesn’t have designers. They have only writers and developers, and they’re working on a voice interface for the Google assistant.
“It feels like companies that focus on content and content related outcomes are doing really, really good.”
Who knows what’s going to come in the future? But we need writers. You can already see the companies that don’t focus on it don’t do as great as the companies that invest in it.
Booking’s investing in it. Facebook’s investing in it. Google’s investing in it. I’ve followed the progress of company named Get Your Guide in the last year. They invest so much time and effort in their content and localization efforts. They just raised $484 million. Webflow, focusing a lot on content strategy – and they have John Moore, their principal content strategist – also raised $72 million.
It feels like companies that are focusing on content and content related outcomes are doing really, really good. And yes, I think many, many companies still overlook this field, banks, for example.
Thinking of UX in general, we can’t really talk about just designing the interface, as you mentioned. We also need research. Do you find UX writing easily researchable?
At the UX writing course we have a UX writing research module. You can apply different methodologies that will eventually help you create better content.
“Research for copywriters and UX writers is the most important thing…”
It has a few similarities with traditional UX research methodologies. Creating a persona and stuff like that, or competitor analysis and you know that really, you’re doing UX design. But a few methodologies specifically relate to content, content optimization and content strategy.
Your audience needs to relate to what you say, and you must know them like the back of your hand when you write for them makes research the most important for UX Writers and copywriters as well.
You mentioned you created the Facebook group called Microcopy and UX Writing. But you also founded UX Writing Hub. Why did you create it? What do you consider its role in this world?
The UX Writing Hub came about after many people asked me for a UX training course. I hired professional writers from the community to create this course with me. We investigated the industry, did our research, understood the processes in the leading companies in the world so we could create that kind of course.
The UX Writing Hub is a website – a content website – that brings this content to the world and also has the course. The course allows the company to grow.
The course allows us to create an impact on this industry. It allows us to take people from the community to those that need UX writers. And it allows us to train people and use different methodologies we’ve researched and use our content and all of our experience, because experienced people created this course.
I brought my experience as a product designer and the writers brought their experience as UX writers. And, in addition to the research we have today, I’d call this the best training program in the world for UX writers.
I don’t want to say names right now but definitely you’ve heard about most of the companies that approach our students.
“We want to spread the word.”
Wow. It sounds great.
We want to spread the word. I’m going to different conferences around the world just to make them understand they need to hire UX writers. It’s bigger than me. It’s not about me. It’s about the community.
And where are you going with this? Which conferences will you attend?
We’re going to have different workshops soon. One will happen in November, World Usability Day, the largest UX conference, in Estonia.
I’ve already spoken in different conferences. Right now we’re planning Writers in Tech 2020, the first conference dedicated to UX writing in the world (there are only content strategy conferences at the moment). It’ll probably take place in Berlin, that’s brought me here right now.
We just did a salary survey to understand how much people earn and if they’d share with the community so our students could ask for promotions and know how much they are worth.
“Everything for the community”
That sounds great. You mentioned the UX Writing Course. I looked through the program. It looks really interesting to me. As you mentioned, I can imagine someone expects they can get hired after doing this training. Can someone expect this?
Yes, 100%. In addition to the materials, this course goes 10 weeks. We didn’t make it self-paced. I am coming from an online education background and I know that only 7% of people that are taking self paced courses are actually finishing them. So, our course goes week-by-week. Every week we have new materials and our students send us assignments. We send them feedback not more than 48 hours afterwards.
So, we have direct communication with them in addition to double mentoring. Each student gets two mentors – not one, but two. One, a product designer, usually me. The other, a UX writer. We have a few of those now. We meet them once a week to help them with their challenges in the course, or even with challenges not related to the course, challenges in their career. We’re actually helping them prosper in their career.
We have the career advisory service, too. Let’s say you have a student in New York right now. So our career advisory will look for different open positions in New York from our community because we have open positions and stuff like that all the time. We just match them with those jobs. So we actively help them find a job. We hold this as our top priority.
“Our idea is to bring the industry to a level where we know that we push the industry with our content, and everybody’s practiced in our methodologies.”
Not everyone does our course. It doesn’t help everyone, only those who engage highly with our content with much motivation. We don’t care for those unsure of what they want to do.
We want to bring the industry to a level where we know that we push it with our content, and everybody has practice in our methodologies. It includes more than just an online course; it’s bigger than that. It’s very effective so far even though it’s been challenging.
So I think we should really advise someone to participate because it must be very, very inspirational.
Only if you’re ready to invest your time and money in it. Only if you want it as a career path would I recommend you to do that. If you’re not sure, I invite you to speak with me. I have an open desk. I invite you to just talk to me and I will let you know if it’s the right track for you or not. And you can always listen to our content in the Writers in Tech podcast or read our blog which will help you to understand if UX Writing is the right career path for you.
Do you have any other advice for the motivated writers out there?
Yes. Engage with as much content as you can. No one has an academy for UX writing right now. You can’t go to your hometown for a UX writing course. It’s not happening.
Many resources out there will teach you different methodologies and how to become a better UX writer. In general, a lot of smart people write about that UX Writing best practices. And just like what we had with UX design a few years ago, when people didn’t exactly know about their processes and how it works but the power of the community of sharing information proved very efficient.
“…there is UX writing content out there. Go. Read. Engage with it.”
Like, by the way, what UX Studio is doing, which is amazing. I know many people from the UX design industry refer to your blog because you’re educating the bigger community and the fact that you are doing it means a lot. It means you’re actually teaching people. People engage with your content.
So just like what we had with UX design a few years ago, right now, UX writing content exists out there. Go. Read. Engage with it. Understand what it takes to work as a UX writer. Talk to me if you want. Go to the Facebook group. Look for articles. Do our free mini course. Listen to podcasts. If you’ve got motivated about this career path, just engage, engage, engage.
And honestly, the transition from copywriter to UX writer doesn’t come that hard. You just need to acquire a few skill sets, just like I did when I turned from graphic designer to UX designer. Just change your mindset to something slightly different and you could nail it.
“…just engage, engage, engage, engage, engage.”
Yeah, that sounds quite logical. Can you predict the future of UX writing? Can you imagine how it will look in 10 years?
I can’t predict the future. Nobody can. But yeah, we might have singularity one day of machines that will write for us. We don’t know the future, right? But till then: a huge demand for writers. For example, have you seen the show Westworld?
No, I haven’t yet.
OK, the movie Her?
A dystopian futuristic movie, right? Do you remember what happened?
Yes, the man fell in love with the voice, Her.
Right, and who do you think created that first interaction?
Well, honestly, I don’t know, but someone had to start writing it.
In a real world situation today we can see it already on the Google Assistant or different voice interfaces we interact with. People even have emotions for their Google Assistants. If you say “I love you” to your Google Assistant… Like, let’s give it a shot: I love you.
Wow. If you love me, you must think I’m really helpful. Best day ever.
Someone is writing this kind of interaction, right? And we will need more writers to create these kinds of interactions. Not in order to make people fall in love with your app but to have some kind of an AI that will learn what you want, what you need.
And based on that, we’ll create the best possible interactions with you that will guide you and help you in your personal life. A chat bot. A voice interface. A visual interface. Who knows?
“We’ll need more writers in tech”
I don’t think that in the future we’re not going to have visual interfaces. We’re visual creatures. I just don’t know how they’re going to look or communicate yet. I do think that we’ll need more writers in tech to create those interactions.
Continue learning with UX studio
Feel free to read our last week’s article, where we guide you on how you should match customers needs to your product by creating attractive value proposition.
For additional reading, check out our Product Design book by our CEO, David Pasztor. We ship worldwide!