So you want to become a UX writer. That’s great! This guide covers the skills you need—and how to get those skills—to help you land that UX writing position you’ve set your sights on.
Want a career in UX writing? Excellent choice! With a steady flow of new websites, apps, and bots, there’s a high demand for people who can write copy for these digital products. But as a fairly new field in a fast changing industry, it may not be obvious what you need to do to maximize your chances of getting hired.
Whether you’re a writer who wants to transition to the wonderful world of UX, a product designer who wants to develop your skill set to include writing, or somebody who is looking for a complete career change, we’ve got plenty of tips for you here. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What skills do you need as a UX writer?
- How do you get the skills you need as a UX writer?
- Final thought
1. What skills do you need as a UX writer?
There are six core skills you’ll need as a UX writer. Let’s have a look at each of these individually:
- Writing skills (but perhaps not in the way you think)
- Content strategy
- User experience
- Design tools
- Communication skills (and lots of patience)
- Curiosity and agility
Writing skills (but perhaps not in the way you think)
You will be working with words, so you do need sharp writing skills. Being aware of grammar and writing conventions in your language will make your life easier. If you don’t have a writing background, it’s a great idea to start by evaluating your writing skills and considering if you need to develop them.
Having said that, UX writing is very different from other kinds of writing jobs.
If you come from a profession such as marketing, copywriting, or journalism, UX writing will teach you to see words as part of the design. You’ll learn to research copy that has a better chance of resonating with the users and to test what effect they have on the users. You will also be introduced to the concept of conversational writing.
UX writing without content strategy is just guesswork. As a UX writer, you need to know what the words are meant to achieve and which actions the users should take. This means being aware of the goals not just of the company but of its product or products, as well as of individual flows, screens, and CTAs.
The company’s style guide, tone of voice, and relevant branding documents will guide you in the right direction. If these documents don’t exist, you may be part of creating them. In other cases, you will collaborate with the company or project content strategist.
Without any user research and testing, companies will learn the hard way whether the copy in your interface works well or not—or they may never find out that there is a problem in the first place.
UX writing uses similar research methods as UX design—user surveys, interviews, personas, and A/B testing—so those who are transitioning from design have an advantage in this area. In addition, UX writers have different methods to carry out conversation mining—research related specifically to the words used in a product.
UX writing is different from design, of course. And most people are probably not going to become both a design magician and a writing wizard. Still, it’s a smart move to familiarize yourself with the most common design tools.
As a UX writer you’ll get used to seeing words as a part of the overall design, and learning to use design tools will give you priceless insights into how designers work. Plus you will be working closely with designers and the collaboration will be easier if you have an understanding of the tools they use.
Communication skills (and lots of patience)
Be prepared to explain over and over again what UX writing is and why it is useful for companies who produce digital products.
Curiosity and agility
Last but not least, UX writers work with digital products, and the digital industry is constantly changing. Keep an open mind and be sure to stay up to the date with trends and news.
2. How do you get the skills you need as a UX writer?
Here are five key steps you’ll need to take if you want to land a job as a UX writer:
- Connect with other UX writers
- Get the basics down by taking a course
- Stay up to date with industry trends
- Explore design tools
- Build a portfolio
Connect with other UX writers
Maybe the best thing about the UX writing groups on social media is that you will get heaps of tips on which courses to take and which articles to read (and considering the sheer amount of activity within the field, this is very helpful). Plus of course you can ask questions.
The UX writing community is really inspiring and supportive, so there is nothing to worry about. Most of us are still pretty new in the field and everyone can bring their own experience and ideas. Here are three resources to get you started:
- Microcopy & UX Writing (the biggest UX writing community on Facebook)
- Microcopy and UX Writing LinkedIn group
- UX Writing Hub newsletter
Also, be sure to search for UX writing/microcopy groups in your area. And if you don’t find any, why not set one up yourself? Remember, most groups start with just the founder/s and their best mates. Through the local groups, you may find out which companies hire UX writers and get a chance to attend meet-ups.
Get the basics down by taking a course
Do you have to take a course? No, you don’t. But it does give you several advantages if you’re keen to get going: You show future employers that you have taken the effort to learn. If you’re new on the scene it’s also a fab way to get some practical experience and start producing samples that you can use in a portfolio.
So what do you learn in a UX writing course? It will probably include elements of UX research, testing, design and wireframe tools, and of course tons of practical UX writing exercises.
You may want to start with a free introduction to the field. There are plenty to choose from, but here are a couple to get you started:
If you already know that UX writing is for you, you could sign up for a longer program. Check these out:
There are also more specialized courses around, such as conversational design and how to write for chatbots:
Stay up to date with industry trends
A new field in a fast-paced industry means plenty of demand, but also growing competition. A way to stand out from the crowd is to show that you stay up to date with industry trends with articles, podcasts and books.
A simple Google search on any UX-related subject will provide you with an endless flood of articles. The UX writing community is fuelled by writers, and boy do we write. You could spend all day, every day reading and never get to the bottom of the pile.
That’s why it’s a good idea to follow your favourite UX writing groups online. You’ll be fed constant reading tips and can contribute to (or just spy on) the discussion around these topics.
Podcasts are excellent for feeding your brain with current topics, with the added advantage that you can soak them up while commuting to work, going for a walk, or when you can’t sleep. Here are three you don’t want to miss:
For more in-depth knowledge on a particular topic, read a book! Again, there are tons to choose from. Here’s a list of UX-related book suggestions to get you started.
Explore design tools
The most useful tool for UX writers at the time of writing is Figma, as it allows designers and writers to create sketches together. But there are many other design tools out there.
As a UX writer, it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself in a project where the designers are used to Sketch, Invision, or Zeplin. The sheer variety of design tools on the market can be overwhelming both for newbie UX designers and for UX writers who come from a non-design background.
If you’d like to learn more about design tools for UX writers, UX Writing Hub’s overview of the tools you are most likely to come across is a great place to start.
Build a portfolio
Creating a portfolio may seem like a daunting task, but once you’ve got one, it will make it so much easier to pitch your skills to potential employers.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect from the start. You can always keep improving your portfolio (just as you will always keep improving your work once you land a UX writing job!).
So what do you put in your portfolio? One of the most important things will be to include practical examples of your work in the form of screenshots and case studies. And don’t worry if you’re going for your first UX writing job – you can use examples from your UX writing course, or just make up your own. Go to any website or app, find some microcopy that can be improved, and provide before-and-after examples.
Be sure to also include a detailed description that outlines the process you would take:
- What is the problem with the current copy?
- What kind of research would you carry out to verify the problem?
- What kind of research would you do to help you find possible solutions?
- When you have created alternative copy, what kind of tests could you use to check if the new solution improves the results?
There are plenty of good tools you can use to set up your portfolio. A few popular choices are Squarespace, Google sites, Wix, WordPress, Adobe Portfolio, Behance and Webflow. Great, and how do you decide which one to use? Here’s a trick: Start by checking out other people’s portfolios, and when you find one you really like, you can use the Chrome extension Wappalyzer to find out which tool the portfolio was built with.
What do you do with your carefully constructed portfolio? You can always target large companies that you know have a need for UX writers and send it to them directly. If you prefer to apply for advertised jobs, check out this UX writing job board.
3. Final thought
We hope you found the tips in this article useful. UX writing is a promising new field within digital technology. If you keep an open mind and are willing to explore new skills, you have great chances to find a UX writing position that suits you. It can be stressful to learn a new job and apply for jobs but with a little bit of determination, you’ll get there sooner if not later!
If you’d like to learn more about UX writing, check out these articles: