How I stumbled into UX writing and never lookED back

freelance-ux-writer

I’d never spent so long considering so few words.

I didn’t realise at the time the fragments of copy I was creating even had a name. But I did know one thing- I was bloody enjoying it.

In 2016, I joined a fintech startup as the only native English speaker and writer. I quickly realised it was up to me to create the entire content strategy and copywriting for the business.

I relished the chance to empathise with our customers. To walk in their shoes, to face the problems and challenges they were hoping to overcome. I got started armed with a notepad, large whiteboard and a stack of coloured sticky notes. Yep, I liked this project already.

The weeks to follow evaporated into research, discovery, empathy mapping, affinity diagrams, customer journeys, building personas, tone and voice style guidelines, branding essence and more. As a freelancer, I was most commonly brought in at the end of projects, website designs all but approved and my copy having to fit neatly into the ‘lorem ipsum’ gaps left to fill. This project was different. I was so energised to be a part of the creation phase, to sit alongside the dev and UX team right from the get-go.

The client was a budding fintech; an alternative lender focused on providing small business loans. Naturally, customers were often anxious, they needed their hand held, they needed to feel secure through this process. After all, they were disclosing a tonne of sensitive information and data such as business names, ABNs, financial information, driver licence, credit history. Alternative lending being a nascent industry, most users had never dealt with a financial institution outside the big four banks in Australia. We were also battling a common stigma- that money lending is grubby business. Building trust and transparency with our customers was imperative.

The copy had one overarching aim: clarity. The copy had to be concise, clear, helpful. Unlike copywriting that is designed to persuade and sell, the UX copy and microcopy were intended to guide, inform, educate and take what was a complex algorithm on the back end into a very simple and straightforward user experience. An experience in which people were informed, looked after and confident they were dealing with a reputable business that understood their needs.

Borrowing money is serious business. With serious ramifications if the business defaults. We wanted to be approachable but not make light of the process.

But we also didn’t want to sound like your typical financial institution. Read: stale, uptight. We needed to be understanding and empathetic more than anything.

Copywriting and content elements for this fintech project included;

  • Wireframes and prototypes of app, website dashboards
  • All website copy
  • Notifications, Confirmation and Error messages
  • Placeholder text
  • Button copy and CTAs
  • Email schedule for both onboarding, transactional and promotional purposes. I.e. When people signed up, we welcomed them. If they fell out of the funnel at any of the four application steps, there would be a personalised email of where they were up to. We followed with transactional emails around completing the process, the lending decision and outcome, the repayment schedules and how they could re-finance in future. Promotional emails revolved around small business advise and generalist small business topics along with recent media coverage.
  • Error 404s
  • User dashboards for customers and business partners
  • Empty states
  • Signup forms
  • Logins and password recovery
  • Blog content
  • Press & Media releases
  • Advertorials and Editorial content

A lot to cover, right? A great mix of UX writing, microcopy, content marketing, sales copywriting and funnels.

So, what are the things I learned from this project?

  1. UX Writing is a real thing. And it’s only growing in demand as UX Designers and Product Managers realise great content has to be aligned with UX/UI design from the very beginning of projects. Great copywriters are critical to great user experience.
  2. Microcopy is about clarity. Along with being helpful, timely and concise. Think of it as condensed language.
  3. If you’re a copywriter, it’s okay to prefer flows to funnels. There’s room for all sorts of copywriters in design, content marketing, advertising. Find your sweet spot. This project triggered something I’d been feeling for some time- while I dig the research, discovery, ideation and creation phases of large projects, I don’t always love ‘the sell’. And that’s okay.
  4. While copywriting is intended to persuade, UX writing is to guide.

I’m grateful this project gave me my first glimpse into the challenging, exciting, inspiring world of UX writing and design. It’s even inspired me to pursue my Masters of Interaction Design along with focusing on UX writing projects currently.

So, wish me luck on this journey. Onwards and upwards into the world of UX research and design!

Casey