Is your copy mindful?
Yesterday, after yet another day of combat with Skype for Business, of bearing the daily trumpet practice of my 12-year-old upper neighbor, and of reading end-of-the-world predicting news, I decided it was finally time for me to give meditation a proper shot. (I might blame my stubbornness to the fact that meditation is the newest religion for burned-out Youtubers, digital nomads, @veganhealthycharlotte who stopped drinking coffee and other unbearable people alike.)
7pm. Comfortably seated in my sofa with a bag of beef jerky and a glass of wine, the Gen Z in me downloaded the best rated app in the App Store to get started (after all, what did I learn in business school if not “We need an app!”). I fill in my basic data, complete my profile and personalize some settings. But as I click “next” suddenly, my faith in humanity suddenly collapses with every readiness to meditate I managed to gather that day. The app showed me a loading screen, so far so good – I’m here to learn how to meditate after all so why not start right away - but with a little text that made me cringe so much I just decided to stick to wine to relax tonight.
What happened, you ask? Let us park for a while my questionable motivation to meditate and focus on this app. I was using the app in French and the loading screen said something I could translate like “Will you now PLEASE have a little patience.” Yes. Like that. Ok, the text wasn’t written in caps but this is how I felt when I read this. It was blaming, inadequate, contradictory to the app content and totally clashing with the calming and inspiring UI of this meditation app. I felt like I was not treated well like the princess, I mean, customer I am. What kind of crappy copy was this?
Words matter, my friend.
We all know the importance of strong UX and beautiful UI in apps (and so does LinkedIn) for many years now. But who’s designing the words of interfaces? I’m using the word “designing” on purpose here because words will blend together with the graphics and the rest of your app to form the experience of your end-user as a whole. Following that logic, UX, UI and UX Copy are of equal importance and should be defined together and according to each other. It’s probably never a good idea to address your customer with a passive-aggressive undertone but it certainly isn’t in a meditation app whose purpose it is to help you relax. In that sense, it’s probably not great if Jordy the business analyst takes a few hours to fill in the buttons and empty spaces before it goes to a translator and finally to production the day after.
So what is UX Copy?
As you might guess, UX copy brings together UX and writing. It’s user-centric copywriting. In a digital context, it has the clear goal to guide the user to their desired end goal, using plain, coherent and clear language. Using transparent language will also build trust with your users and may blow off some steam on the customer support side. Just like a UX designer, a UX writer will use the same kind of testing tools, write in an iterative process and ideally be involved from ideation to development.
Not only should good copy make the user journey more efficient or trustworthy, there is an important element of brand identity in the form of a specific tone of voice. Now, more than, ever, it is crucial for companies to convey their values digitally and be consistent in their interaction with customers.
Just like in real life, you want to give to your customer this “delightful experience”. Make them smile. Make them think, “oh wow, these are nice guys” or “Yep, all clear, next”. Make them curious, if they’re new. Make them say to their friends that they love you, when they’ll know you better. It’s probably very subtle and the user won’t even notice himself but it’s incredibly powerful for your brand image, and in the end, for your ROI.
You’ll agree with me that Jordy the Business Analyst is not the best suited to do the job. Why we shouldn’t ask Ida from Marketing either, even if she’s good a writing? Because real UX writing it’s just a totally different kind of writing that serves an entirely different purpose. Nothing wrong with marketeers here, to be clear. Or even with Business Analysts. But if there is one thing UX writing is not, it’s storytelling, advertising, or selling. What you’re trying to do here is guide your user, be their best friend, make them laugh, explain complex stuff in an easy way, get an informed consent, or make them confident when taping a button on what’s coming. Marketeers are great at strategically selling your product and communicating why a user needs a certain product. But once they are a step closer, you’ll need a good UX writer to help them understand how to make the best use of it.
My meditation app for sure didn’t have the intention to make me feel this way. It just underestimated the power of words in designing their digital interface. I recognize I may have overreacted, too. We both said sorry. They promised to change the copy. We can now shake hands and be friends again.