This is the transcript of Ask Me Anything Session with Yuval Keshtcher on Product Tribes community, July 25, 2019
Yuval is the founder of the largest UX Writing community in the world and a product designer and entrepreneur from Israel. Today Yuval is in charge of the first UX writing course in the world by the UX Writing Hub, helping writers to communicate better with designers.
Yuval, we are extremely happy to see you on Product Tribes!
Thanks! Happy to be here :)
Maybe something easy for a start — how did you get into UX writing?
As a product designer, I’ve noticed that there aren’t any people in charge of writing the user interface (it was a few years ago) so I created a FB community for UX writers named microcopy and UX writing so I would meet with all of the people who are UX writers so I could learn from them about this practice.
The FB group turned out to be a success, with high-level discussion and basically that’s how it all started.
What are your tips on creating a UX writing portfolio?
Basically, it’s super similar to the UX design portfolio.
When I was just starting out as a UX designer without any projects under my belt, I would take products that I used daily, such as Google Maps, Tinder, or Spotify, and create solutions to problems in those apps.
I thought about a Spotify feature to help people organize music for parties or how to design a feature on Tinder that allowed for double dates. If you’ve got an idea to improve an app, take a few screenshots, document your solution, and add it to your portfolio (just don’t forget to mention it’s a fake project).
Process of setting up a portfolio:
- Always start with the problem that you are trying to solve.
- Present the process that you’ve chosen.
- Explain the context of your role (was it done just by you, in the team, did you collaborate with designers, what was your role).
- Before and after screenshots.
Platforms that let you build a portfolio with ease — no code required:
Elementor (WordPress) https://elementor.com/
I’ve curated a list of top UX writing portfolios so you could also see best practices for yourself.
What role do you think writing plays in the design process? Should every designer know how to write well?
I believe that UX writers should be in charge of the content style guide and teach the rest of the product team to use it.
Everybody should write, designers and developers included. I recommend the book Writing for Designers by Scott Kubie. Listen to him talk about this topic in the next podcast by the User defenders podcast.
When it comes to UX writing, and by association — content strategy, what are your recommendations for elevating the importance of both in a large corporate organization? So that you can really provide a unified message across all digital and physical presence.
Just like product designers have a design system they use in order to create alignment in the design between different product teams within the organization, writers should create a content style guide to create consistency between different departments. So when in scale (or when working for huge brands), the message would be unified.
My fave style guides are:
- Google https://material.io/design/
- Shopify https://polaris.shopify.com/content/product-content
- Gov.uk (By the fantastic Sarah Richards from Content Design London) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/content-design
This is a curation of different open-sourced content style guides: http://UXwritinghub.com/content-style-guides/
This is an interview I had with Sarah Richards about her process of setting up the content style guide of Gov.Uk: http://UXwritinghub.com/fighting-for-content-design/
In our course, we are helping our students to set up a style guide for their organizations as well.
I have a question coming from the endless battle between my inner grammar freak and empathy for the reader. Between grammar and language use — what do you choose? As we know, language is a very plastic structure and sometimes a phrase is correct, but people just do not say that (or the other way around) — which side are you on?
I am on the user’s side. We need to write like people talk in order to create conversational interfaces.
Also, there’s a tendency for people to think of the written language as the “real” version of the language. This is a fallacy. Written language is an approximation of the spoken language. It is just symbols on the screen that make you imagine the sounds someone makes to communicate.
Remember that in UX writing, we use a conversational approach — and not a conversation with your English Lit professor.
There are many people that work as copywriters in marketing teams who want to become UX writers. Any advice on how to start and break into UX writing for them?
Start with this amazing list of resources: https://medium.com/@katherinebradshawjones/a-mega-list-of-ux-writing-resources-d9f200d6dfde
The idea is to get into the product design mindset (because UX writers are product designers).
The marketing team is in charge of bringing people to the product. Once they’re in, the copy should be guiding the users and helping them to use the app in the best possible way. I like to call this phase the “tipping point”. When there isn’t any need to be aggressive with your copy.
A writer can take both rules, but it’s crucial to do this shift and adjust your tone according to the different touchpoints of the user’s journey.
What is the first thing you teach people in your courses?
- Get into the problem-solving mindset.
- Communicate in the best possible way (put your ego outside of the office).
- Fight for your seat at the table.
About that third one. Do you have any further advice? I have a bad experience there…
Yes. And it goes back to the 2nd one. Put your ego outside of the office.
I had a chat with Matt from Deloitte about it:
He finds the designer in charge, grabs a cup of coffee with him or her and asks how he can help.
Yuval, how to improve the writing skill set? Do you think typical writing workshops are helpful?
Like in any other 21st century profession, a UX writer should be an infinite learner following and learning different disciplines such as writing, psychology, and communication.
I watched Mad Man just to see different copywriting methodologies from the 50s for example.
(Shout out to Don Draper for a great user interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVn-TN-RpWo)
The best advice I can give to someone that wants to improve their writing is to read a lot, and write even more.
What metrics to use when it comes to UX writing?
Though one! Testing copy and its results is hard and it changes not only between different products but between different parts of the product (pricing page vs FAQ page for example).
I love to follow the blog of Booking.com team (they are 60 UX writers!) that runs more than 1000 copy tests a day.
And time for the last question: What would be the one thing you would like to share with fellow designers, developers, and managers on Product Tribes?
Thanks for being here today. The fact that you made it means that you care, just like me, about the exciting world of user experience and product design.
I want you to know that you have a huge responsibility in shaping the future of digital experiences. Many companies are going to offer you a lot of money for doing so and you are going to have different crossroads in your careers. Trust me.
I want to tell that UX is not about creating addictive dopamine blasts for your users. It’s not about glowing your user’s eyes to your app at all costs or taking all of their money.
It’s about creating a better future for the human race.
HUGE responsibility. Use it wisely. Avoid dark patterns at all costs.
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