It’s all in the details: an introduction to UX Writing and Microcopy

By Jesse Viana| Copywriter & Community Manager at Monday

Ever since I got into school, I’ve been a word-person, almost as if by nature. I love to write, no matter what format it may be (and, you know, there’s just something about numbers… they can be so confusing). Exactly for this reason, I’ve been following the writing path — from journalism to content writing — which, inevitably, lead me here, working as a (beginner) copywriter.

Recently, I have been introduced to both UX Writing and Microcopy, and since I never worked on that before, I took my time to try and understand what they are, individually; what they may have in common or what makes them different. This is all part of a brave new world to me, so scroll down to know a little bit more about them and what I’ve been learning the past few months. I promise it’s an easy read!

UX Writing: improving user’s experience with small details

What’s the importance of UX Writing, you might ask? It’s very simple and it comes down do this: it must tell the users what they need to do, where they are and where they’re going next. Its purpose is to guide, to lead and, most importantly, to help them achieve (successfully) what they came looking to do. It needs to offer solutions, to solve problems, and to actively engage with the users.

For it to work, it has to be clear and useful, and it’s mandatory that it’s written in a kind and understanding way. Well, you don’t want to upset them or frustrate your users, right? It’s always best for it to be friendly while being funny (but not too much, you smarty-pants!).

So if you, like me, have been trying to get some tips on the subject, here’s a few I’ve collected while reading amazing articles on the matter:

  1. Use straightforward and understandable language, accessible to everyone (yes, even to a five-year-old). But don’t talk too much: keep it to the essentials your user needs to know in order to complete its task.
  2. Understand who you are, what your product is, and who your audience and target are. Think about what you want them to feel while interacting with your product and, most importantly, what you don’t want them to feel.
  3. Speak directly to the users, embrace the power of “you”. This will help establish a good relationship on both-ends, while immediately catching their attention. And always ask yourself: How will your product make their life better?
  4. Don’t forget to always read what you wrote, to edit whatever you don’t need, as many times as you see fit, and to always let your users know what they are looking at. It may seem super basic information, but trust me: it’s important!
  5. When you have your tone-of-voice settled, your product’s benefits and features all sorted out, and when you finally understand who you are and who your customers may be, you are finally ready to describe whatever you’re communicating in a simple and understandable way.

Basically, what’s important is being able to have successful conversations with your customers; to know what matters to them, giving them guidance to solve their problems by connecting to them on an emotional level; and then getting them to have a good impression about you.

What is Microcopy? Isn’t it the same as UX Writing?

The answer to this question is simple: microcopy actually addresses product concerns far beyond UX. But if we settle for microcopy as UX writing, we cut out extra benefits before we even start writing. It’s essential to look at them as a full package, as complementing one another. Let’s learn the difference between them.

When you think about UX Writing, you immediately think about all the little buttons you read when completing a task on a website, for example. Where the download link is, reading about Terms and Conditions, forgetting your password; you know, all of the user’s actions while navigating something. It’s giving the users the information they need.

Microcopy, on the other hand, is all of the elements of web copy that help guide users through products and processes. Wait, they sound the same, right? And, on a technical level, they meet the same principle purpose: balancing a product’s business needs with what’s best for the user. When that’s achieved, uniting these goals provide the users with an intuitive and delightful experience.

The difference between them, however, is far beyond semantic. The logic of UX Writing is useful to explain users why we ask them for their personal data, for example, but not to determine the how in doing so. The logic of copy, however, is to explain a concept through language and phrasing that will fit the brand, while also creating a coherent personality (also known as branding). It’s the full application of User Experience.

If you want to learn more about Microcopy, this is where I got all the juice:

All of my learnings came from these amazing articles:

This is a work in progress, so expect more from me in the coming months! I hope you enjoyed learning this bit with me, and I hope I can keep sharing my knowledge with you. If you’d like to know more about any other subject, feel free to give us a shout out on the comment box! I love learning as much as I love reading. Tchuss!

Thank you for reading

We really do want to hear from you! Get in touch

Monday is a Business Design Consultancy based in sunny Lisbon. We co-create with ambitious leaders to build better businesses. We use strategy & design to transform businesses from within.

This core philosophy stands at the center of everything we create. Clients include: Mercedes, Red Bull, Banco de Portugal, Mars, Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda, Philips, Jogos Santa Casa, Guloso…

We co-create with ambitious leaders to build better businesses. We use strategy & design to transform businesses from within.