UX writers belong in your opening line-up, not on the bench

Did you just hire your first UX Writer? Congratulations! Hopefully, your company is not more than a few years old at this point. But it’s okay even otherwise. Better late than never, they say. And if you’re just setting up shop and you’ve already thought about content design and hired a writer to help you out, good on you!

Now that's only half the job done. To get the most out of what many in our entrepreneurial circles may consider a futile investment, you need to set up your UX writer for success. When they’re successful, your product glows and becomes loved, and you rake in the benefits of a successful product. Wondering how to do that? Here’s how.

Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth.

Get your writer involved early on in the design process. The earlier the better. In fact, there’s no such thing as too early. When the wireframes are ready? Definitely. When you’re discussing how to design the product or feature? Absolutely. When you’re wondering what to build next that would give value to your users? Heck yeah! You get the idea.

But why does it make sense to bring in the writer so early in the process, you ask? Here’s why.

Context for content

When you share a finished wireframe with your writer, they’ll be able to follow what’s happening there, of course. Writers are creative beings and have great imaginations. So they’ll put the puzzle together and make sense of it. However, there are a lot of minor details and background information that may not translate from the discussion room into the wireframe. And any information that slips through the cracks is a piece of the bigger context lost to the void.

The final outcome from any writer is only as good as the depth of the context that they have. And when they’re involved in all these initial discussions about the feature or product, they will be privy to all the other mini-discussions that arise over conversation and that would help them paint a more detailed picture of what’s being built in their heads. This level of detail will naturally translate into the copy they write and will help your users the best.

Smooth and fast development

The more time you give your writer at the beginning of the process, the less you’ll waste in later stages. Including your writer in the early discussions for the feature or product, will give you a rough idea of what the copy would look like, in addition to the look and feel of the design itself. This means that no more design prototypes with “Lorem Ipsum” in them.

You’ll have actual copy pertaining to the scenario already in place within the design when building the prototype. This then makes testing the feature that much easier and more fruitful. From here on, the content is only going to undergo minor tweaks and improvements, which will save time greatly in the later stages of the development when you want to accelerate towards that finish line, and also ensure that this happens in an efficient way, without you losing quality for the sake of speed.

A writer’s perspective

When you get together to discuss and flesh out an idea you have, who do you have present in that discussion with you? Sure, you have the product managers, maybe a couple of developers, and even a designer or two. But do you also include a content designer in these discussions? If not, you should!

The list of people you’ve invited covers almost all perspectives, except that of a content designer — a copy perspective. While the others may provide valuable insights from their points of view, they will not be able to look at the problem or the solutions being discussed from a copy perspective. And their perspective is vital as they can provide a fresh look at things and whole other possibilities, for whatever it is you’re trying to create. Some of these may involve design alterations, or changes in layout, text, or even the possibility to eliminate text altogether (this is great, by the way)!

Again, it helps your UX writers to be able to provide their perspectives clearly and in detail, the earlier they’re involved in the discussion. Also for you, it eliminates the risk of major changes cropping up later on in the development of the feature or product, saving time, effort, and frustration for everybody.

Prevent solutionizing of copy

When you hit a roadblock in your ideation, it’s easy to go “We can add copy here to make things clear for the user.” But the more you do this, the more copy you’re going to end up with on your product, most of which your users won’t bother reading, and the copy, therefore, becomes counterproductive.

The best way to avoid these walls of text from ending up on your product is to include your content designer in the discussions. They’ll make sure that copy isn’t used as a crutch to hold up impractical or unintuitive design, and that you don't see copy as this magical fix-it-all that will make everything rosy.

Making your designs future-ready

What about the features that you don’t even know you’d be building yet? Your writers need to be in on these as well. How, you ask? Well, you’re probably building a design system for your product or you probably already have one in place. Have you considered content design for your design system?

Now, before you say “get out of here, Bala”, indulge me for a bit. You have a design system with a component every imaginable visual interaction with your users. It probably still has text, only, for now, it’s all the meaningless, repetitive, and useless “Lorem ipsum” nonsense, that nobody cares about.

Instead, imagine if you could add syntactic pointers here as placeholders for the actual copy to come. What should the title say? How long should the body text be? How do you want the CTAs phrased? How do you want the overall copy on this element to sound? You’ve got the font, sizing, and other visual parameters included in there as well.

Now you have a template, a skeleton in place for all copy that would go in your product. Anybody who incorporates these core components in their design for whatever interaction flow they’re building will already know what the copy needs to say. They can adapt the instructions they see, to create the right copy for their specific use case. What this does, is that it saves time for the UX writer, reduces dependency and bottleneck scenarios, helps the team become more cross-functional, giving everybody a chance to learn and develop their content design skills.

As I’d mentioned earlier, this is something you can get started on with your content designer and the design team right away. Head off any potential problem or bottleneck even before it arises. Create a content-first design culture within your organization.

To conclude, get your writer involved early, to ensure that you arrive at the best possible solution to the problems you’re trying to tackle. Include them in brainstorms and start thinking about copy around the same time you start thinking about design and creating a vision for the end result. Give them a voice and make sure their perspectives are heard and understood. Use their expertise and build content-first design systems to make content design an inclusive process where anybody can contribute.

Grammar police. Design thinker. Curious mind. Lazy blogger.

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