Writing microcopies

UX related roles and specializations

Usability testing for Signal Iduna


  • Role:UX-Writer
  • Purpose:Creating microcopies
  • Used:Frequently
  • Involved roles:UX-Writer, UXD, Texter

Rediscovering the importance of text

User experience writing is the creation of microcopies for digital products and services. It encompasses all interface text elements from headlines, copy text, button labels, etc.

Currently an ever increasing number of organisations recognise the importance of UI-text creation and hire dedicated UX-writers.

UX and writing

Do users read? Of course they do, but usually not as much as you would like them to. As the Norman Nielsen Group describe the the typical user behaviour for digital documents as a quick scan. Headlines will mostly be read but copy text gets much less attention and often skipped completely.

Many design guidelines few for text

Many companies have invested lots of effort into creating brand guidelines, style guides, design systems but very little effort into how to address their prospects and customers with text messages. In the printing age this has been the domain of advertising agencies with their dedicated role of copy writers.

Although copy writing and writing for digital products and services share some common rules, there are important differences, which are a result of users online reading behaviours.

User research and UX-Writing

Being relevant and easily understandable is much more important for digital than for printed text. User research is a great way to learn about the vocabulary your users actually employ and understand quickly. Listening carefully to terms and denominations in interviews will improve the online text creation and lead to better more understandable texts.

Addressing users personally

How does your company address its customers? There are still many companies out there which don’t have a clue and therefore not a consistent approach.

Sometimes they use the second person and sometimes the third, in German you have more options than in English: Hallo Anna, Hallo Frau Anstedt, Hallo Anna Anstedt, Sehr geehrte Anna Anstedt, Sehr geehrte Frau Anstedt, Sehr geehrte Frau Anna Anstedt.

In the MVP project for the insurance company Signal Iduna, we asked users how they wanted to be addressed by an insurance company. Most were fine being addressed informally, but some expressed doubt for other customers. The answered like: „I do not mind being addressed with my first name, but I think some people won’t like it.“ Finally we decided on a short formal address, which did not gave any negative comments or doubts in later testings.

Avoid marketing jargon

Praising your benefits too much, using flowery adjectives and being less concise will almost instantaneously alienate your users. In interviews users will say it sounds too much as marketing jargon for them. In the digital world users expect brevity and conciseness. You should tend to more factual statements, users also like listings with hyphens better than long copy.

Humour needs testing

Humour or even writing very casually can easily go wrong. If you want humour you probably need iterative user testings. Branding and the users state of mind plays an important role when it comes to casual or humorous writing. Insurance and banking should probably stay away from it. Although they should also not communicate too formal. Which is often observed as arrogant by users.

Personal note on writing

Before I became a user experience designer I teamed up with a friend to write for television for about 2 years. We wrote lots of proposals, treatments and created an own sitcom, which never made it into production. Afterwards I joined ID-Media and wrote direct e-mailings and copy texts for campaign websites.