Sep 16, 2022, Design

UX Writing or Microcopy and how it affects our decisions

Daria Gusieva UX designer
Hand holding a pen and writing
First of all, to explain what UX Writing is we need to take a step back. You’re probably wondering how Writing or Copywriting is connected with UX as they are different areas. But are they really? They are all connected much more than you may think. UX design is a complex field that covers myriad disciplines. UX professionals of diverse specialities must work in concert to provide a user experience that is as enjoyable for users and as seamless as possible. UX Writing is an important, but often overlooked part of UX design.

So, what is UX Writing?

UX Writing is the process of constructing copy or text for an interface that a user interacts with directly. Communication is the primary goal of UX writing, specifically, communication with users through the user interface. Although there are many elements of an interface that communicate with the user such as visual feedback or micro-animations, text is, more often than not, the primary means of communication.

UX writing is the creation of all the copy you see, hear or encounter when using a digital product. It belongs to the field of UX design, so it’s all about enhancing the user experience. There’s no such thing as decorative copy in UX writing: each and every word is crafted to help the user in some way. These short yet powerful messages written by UX writers are known in the industry as “Microcopy”. 

Why does it matter?

In the digital era, people become more and more demanding, and there is no reason to be surprised. They have loads of apps and services to choose from, appreciate their time more and more and get frustrated by extra steps and unclear copy they possibly can avoid. People want to hear to-the-point information that will bring them value which, in turn, will lead to more customer engagement. That’s why creative and intentionally decorated copies don’t work for them anymore.

For instance, Google analyzed that their potential users are more inclined to browse hotel room options casually and are not in the headspace to make a reservation right away. Thus, they changed their copy “Book a room” — which was not empathetic — to “Check availability” — an appropriate microcopy for the intent at the time — which increased the engagement rate by 17%.

The proper microcopy can build an iconic brand and an unforgettable user experience for your customers, alongside improving conversions anywhere between 14.79% and 166.66%.

— Joshua Porter, Father of Microcopy

Devil is in details

It can’t have such power and influence on our decisions that much you might say. Yes, it can and it has indeed. All in this world  is about using the right words, as always. Words have major power on us we don’t even realize, starting from world politics, ending with the digital delivery service. 

When it’s done well, UX writing blends seamlessly into the overall user experience — you’re not necessarily conscious of it being there. But, if you’re looking for it, you can find examples of UX writing everywhere. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.

Simple questions instead of commands:

Netflix says, “Who’s watching?” each time a user logs in which feels less aggressive than “Pick a viewer” or something along those lines. 



Crystal clear confirmations:

Good microcopy lets you know exactly where you are in the purchase flow. Airbnb reassures customers that, “You won’t be charged yet,” which allows them to proceed to the next step without fear. This brief sentence answers the question that every user has when they see a price near a button. 


Clear actions:

Slack has a great practice of explaining  a complex concept in simple terms. They distilled the many possibilities the feature brings about into ‘Message anyone,’ consolidating the many interpretations.


Guidance and suggestions:

Spotify is really good at guidance and suggestions. Not even mentioning that they are one of experts in content personalization, Spotify uses really clear and short suggestions and explanations that make you feel safe and private. For example, ‘This month’ seamlessly builds how a user should frame the content in his head. By knowing it represents one month, a user understands this list is dynamic and represents his monthly mood. ‘Only visible to you’ is a helpful bit of microcopy that eases any worry that the user’s new friend would find out he is a Justin Bieber fan. Offering this bit of context answered any questions that could come up and wrote a path for every direction.


Additional Support:

Nobody likes to fill the fields, but even worse than filling – trying to figure out what is wrong after an error or alert. A good example is not just informing about a mistake/error/alert but suggesting the solution straight away. Spotify says,  ”The provided email address is invalid. Check if you are typing it in the following format:” which is more helpful for users in solving the problem than just formal “Data is invalid”.




Brand Personality:

If the main brand goal is to pop-up, a good and clear copy isn’t enough. UX copy should reflect the brand’s voice as if users would communicate with a person. 

“UX copywriting, or user-experience copywriting, is the act of writing and structuring copy that moves digital users, like visitors and customers, towards accomplishing a goal in an intuitive way. 

– Chelsea Armstrong

Simple but not obvious rules

If you take a deeper look at UX writing, you realize that behind that magic there are pretty simple rules and certain logic. Below we organized and compressed post information into some useful rules on how UX writing should work and feel from a user perspective and how to make Microcopy stand out.

  • Stick to the point and do not beat around the bush

  • Provide an objective to the user before they proceed further to explore more

  • Try and directly address the user by not generalizing things

  • Incorporate “present tense + active voice” in your microcopy

  • Using numerals when required is undoubtedly a good practice

Conclusion (or why each qualitative service should implement it)

UX design consists of a lot of disciplines and each is important to provide a qualitative and really good digital product. It could be compared to the different parts of one mechanism, and only if each is in the proper place and works, the whole  mechanism is functioning properly. 

If it comes to UX Writing in particular, the worst consequence of the use of poor UX copy or neglecting the importance of straight and clear communication is losing credibility with the user. On the other hand, UX Writing can be a great tool to expose your target audience to your brand, in a much deeper, more meaningful manner. 

Considering a sufficiently saturated market and as a result pretty strong and intense competition, there is no place for user needs and mindset neglect. Businesses often have only one real chance to shine on and build instant trust and earn user’s loyalty. So better don’t miss it.