UX writing – what is that?

The text on a button, the error message for incorrect form input – most users don't even pay attention to them. They use apps and websites intuitively. That's how it should be because someone else has already made sure that users have a smooth experience and reach their destination quickly. This person usually has the job title “UX Writer” and in this blog article, you’ll find out what UX writing is all about.

Article by


Carina Glinik

Senior UX Writer
4 min read05 Mar 2024

In a narrower sense, UX writing is the process of writing so-called “UX copy” or “microcopy”. Buttons, input fields, step-by-step instructions, error messages, notifications, warnings, forms, and much more – all the words on the user interface of apps or websites.

Find out more about this in my blog article Microcopy: Small text with a big impact.

“Would you quickly write the UX copy”

We UX Writers often hear sentences like this. But quickly adding the words for buttons, input fields, and instructions is not what UX writing is all about. You don't actually need a UX specialist to label fields without grammatical and spelling errors. Rather, UX writing is about the right communication that gives users orientation and conveys the brand personality.

That's why the work of a UX Writer includes a few other very important tasks in addition to the actual writing.

Image Source: Mindnow

Example: LoFi wireframes in Whimsical

The tasks in UX writing

The easiest way to explain to someone what a UX Writer does is to show them my screen. One look at the many mobile screens and how they are connected and it becomes clear: It's about user flows.

For example, if the user clicks on “Forgot password” on a screen, the flow continues to the “Password reset” screen. Every possible click leads to a new screen and the words that appear there (such as “Enter your new password”) have been written there by the UX Writer (that's me!).

Some flows are of course more complex than forgetting a password, such as onboarding or payment checkouts. What's more, typing words in a wireframe doesn't make it UX writing. Because a lot has already happened in the background before that even happens.

Image Source: Carina Glinik

My workstation – large screen and a decent keyboard are part of the basic equipment of a UX Writer.

It starts with UX research

Long before the first word is even written, a lot of research has already been done. To ensure that the texts that appear on the screens are optimally tailored to the needs of the users, these needs must first be identified and understood. So precisely, there is a separate discipline for this in UX design: UX research.

User interviews and user tests are extremely important at the beginning of the development of a digital product and must be continued on an ongoing basis. Sounds like a lot of work? It is! And that’s exactly the reason why sentences like “Would you quickly write the UX copy” don’t make sense.

Who does UX research?

As a UX Writer at Mindnow, I have the pleasure of usually having specialized UX researchers on the team. This is great for large projects because UX Researchers can concentrate fully on what makes users tick, what they need, and what frustrates them. Sometimes this task is also carried out by the UX Writer or UX Designer. If you are training for UX writing or UX design, you can't avoid UX research anyway and should know how to do it. The smaller the team, the more tasks a single person has.

At our agency, however, UX Writers, UX Researchers, and UX Designers are almost always different people with correspondingly in-depth expertise.

Wherever the information about the users comes from – whether from a colleague, from the customer, or researched by yourself – the results of UX research are the cornerstone of what UX copy is all about.

Image Source: Emiliano Vittoriosi

Don’t call it “UX writing” without voice and tone

Once the personas have been determined through UX research, it is time to take a closer look at your brand personality in a voice and tone workshop.

Voice and tone refer to the personality of a brand (voice) and the way this personality is expressed in different situations (tone). A brand's voice should be consistent and reflect its values, while tone can vary depending on the context to create an emotional connection with users.

In principle, UX Writers write for 2 target groups with 2 different goals. This is due to the nature of digital products, where 2 parties communicate with each other: the users and the organization behind the product. These 2 need to be brought together. That's why I always divide our voice and tone workshops into 3 parts:

Part 1: The users
Ideally, this part is simply a reminder of the existing research. I also like to work with Hubspot's persona tool as part of a workshop.

Part 2: The organization
Practical exercises on brand personality. Only when it is clear who the brand actually is can you determine how it presents itself.

Part 3: The language
Clarification of how the organization communicates with users. The tone of voice in various situations (e.g. product update, crisis, etc.) should also be defined as part of this workshop.

Screenshot of a table with dimensions of voice and tone (in German)
Image Source: Mindnow

Example: A slide from an exercise in a voice-and-tone workshop

Not without my guidelines

At the end of the workshop, I put the most important points into a handout that the whole team (especially Content Creation, Marketing, and Design) can use as a guide.

Even the best voice and tone guidelines are useless if no one ever looks at them again. So make sure that this document is easy to find and doesn't disappear somewhere in a subfolder. It’s best to keep working on it and keep adding up-to-date examples. Other information such as color codes or fonts may also be included. The more reasons there are to look through this document again and again, the better.

UX wireframes – LoFi, HiFi & teamwork

Now we’re at the point that is obviously part of UX writing: the buttons, the input fields, and the step-by-step instructions on the wireframes. The UX Designer has already arranged all these text elements when thinking through and drafting and inserted placeholder copy. The placeholders are sometimes very helpful (e.g. “Here is an explanation of why the user needs to take a photo of their ID”), sometimes not so much (“Lorem Ipsum”). If it’s not clear what purpose the placeholders should serve, I consult with the Product Owner. Ability to work in a team – also an important skill as a UX Writer by the way.

Depending on how early or late I am involved in the project as a UX Writer, I replace the placeholders with “real” UX copy either in the low-fidelity wireframes (e.g. with Whimsical) or the high-fidelity wireframes (e.g. with Figma). It's best to do both – work with UX Copy early on in the low-fidelity wireframes and adapt it again in the high-fidelity design.

Example: High-fidelity wireframes in Figma

UX Copy – the sooner the better

The sooner someone thinks about the wording and questions the structure or the (possible lack of) existence of text fields, the better. With LoFi wireframes, changes are much easier to implement and the UX Writer can get more involved – a benefit that is unfortunately often foregone in practice. While this is not a problem with simple websites, it becomes more critical the more complex the digital application is.

In my 4+ years as a UX Writer at Mindnow, I've worked on a wide range of UX projects. From early drafts in Whimsical to “Would you quickly write the UX copy” at the end of the project, it's all been there. Of course, working hours cost something and if the UX Writer is involved from the start, there will be more. But the user experience will be better and I’m convinced that this investment will pay off.

The same also applies to investing in UX research – the key to success.

Editing is more than correcting errors

Okay, let's assume that a project has to be carried out on the thinnest of flames. No UX research, no voice-and-tone guidelines, and UX writing only in UI design. This app will probably not break any download records, but it might be usable. If it really can only be the bare minimum, then at least get a UX Writer on board for editing.

Editing is the iteration of the UX copy in which you ensure that it achieves the goals. Of course, you should also check for grammatical errors. But that happens on the side and there are tools for that anyway. Editing in the sense of UX writing means ensuring the following when replacing placeholders:

  • Clarity: The UX copy is clear and understandable for users. They always know what they have to do to reach their goal.

  • Conciseness: Users are not here to read. The ideal length: As little as possible, as much as necessary.

  • Dialog: The brand personality emerges in the “conversation” between the user and the application.

Of course, the last point can only be checked if a brand personality has been defined in the first place, e.g. in the Voice and Tone workshop.

In any case, editing should be done in the UX wireframes and not in separate tools. This is the only way to develop a feel for arrangement, prominence, and appropriate text lengths. UX writing is part of UX design and should go hand in hand with it.

The same also applies to translations: Tools like Localazy are super handy, but shouldn't be used without giving the translator enough context. Ideally, the person has access to the wireframes and can directly insert texts there to try out different variants in the design.

In Switzerland, we are very experienced in dealing with the translation of digital products. As 3 official languages + English are common here, we develop almost every product in at least 2 languages.

UX Writing and Switzerland

When I first published this article in September 2022, I wrote the following about this screenshot: “A look at Google Trends suggests that you're probably an early adopter in Switzerland if you're familiar with UX writing – what an opportunity!”

September 2022: the search for “ux writer” does not contain enough data in Google Trends

Update 2024

Something has happened in Switzerland! Well, the term “UX writing” has not yet reached the mainstream, but one thing is clear: Interest is growing.

Screenshot of Google Trends on UX Writing in February 2024

2024: up to 100 search queries for "ux writing" in one week

UX writing is a topic in Switzerland. As an agency, we also notice this in our discussions with (potential) business partners. More and more organizations are recognizing the value of good UX copy and the difference it makes when used strategically. After all, UX Writers bring knowledge and best practices to the table that can put the icing on the cake of a product, and word is getting around.

It has also become clear within our team that UX writing creates added value. Initially, a lot of educational work was needed here, but I am now being invited by Mindnow to work on more and more projects. I would still like to be a little earlier in the process, but we’re at least on the right track.

You can find a few concrete examples of how you can use UX writing immediately to be perceived as a reputable company in my blog article 5 tips for better microcopy.

Of course, you are also welcome to contact me directly if you have any questions about UX writing.

Any questions? I look forward to your message!
Carina Glinik·Senior UX Writer
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Microcopy: Small text with big effect
Article by Carina GlinikSenior UX Writer