Contrary to popular belief, UX writers and copywriters have completely different responsibilities.
It’s true, they’re both responsible for writing the words on a website or app. And sometimes they might even have to wear the same hat. However, the processes and purpose of UX writing and copywriting are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
So in this article, I’m going to explain the key differences between UX writing and copywriting. I’ll also give you some examples of work a UX writer has developed compared to that of a copywriter.
What is copywriting?
I’m starting with copywriting since the user will usually interact with marketing copy before UX copy.
Copywriting is the act of writing persuasively to nudge a reader to take a specific action. It’s a form of marketing that has become critical to the success of online businesses. Copywriters are usually tasked with writing websites, landing pages, product descriptions, ad copy, email campaigns, and loads more.
The primary goal of copywriting is to convert readers into customers (i.e. drive sales).
Copywriters need to learn everything there is about the customer so they can form very compelling copy. They’re closer to the sales side of marketing.
Below is an example of the Convert Kit home page.
Immediately the page is trying to convince readers that their platform will help them grow, automate their marketing and sell more products. The home page is built like a sales page.
The one goal of this page is to get the user to click “Start your free trial”. Once the user converts a copywriter's job is mostly done.
The copywriting process
The copywriting process is focused on customer research and marketing best practices. Understanding the customer, along with the product benefits is usually how copywriters can create a successful piece.
Here’s the general process:
- Research (collect resources, ask the right questions, and audit your swipe file)
- Organize your research and reference copywriting formulas
- Start writing the first draft
- Edit your work
- Proofread your work
- Test & optimize the copy
What is UX Writing?
Firstly, UX stands for “user experience”. Whenever someone in tech mentions UX they’re usually referring to the user experience of a website, mobile application, or digital product. This means UX writing involves all the written text in an application or tool that guides the user to do what they're supposed to do. UX writing begins after a reader becomes a customer or user.
A UX writer is usually tasked with writing descriptions for product features, error messages, labels, navigation buttons, and anything else that guides the customer. In some cases, they’ll determine where these are placed.
The primary goal of UX writing is to help the customer get the most out of a product.
As you can imagine, this is a really important aspect of any tool or app. If users can’t easily and quickly get the job done they might churn. The more customers that churn the more money the business loses.
UX writing is closely tied in with product management and design as opposed to marketing and sales like copywriting. There's also a large component of optimization in a UX writer's role.
A good example of this is Convert Kit’s user interface for creating a new email campaign. Immediately you can see how different it is from the homepage. The copy is not trying to sell to the user, instead, it’s trying to guide the user.
The UX Writing Process
The UX writing process is very similar to the product management process, in a way. The UX writer needs to deeply understand the context, design principles, and the problem and use a whole lot of data to justify their decisions.
According to Puta from UX Planet, UX writing goes far beyond “writing”. Puta’s process is as follows:
- Understand the user and the context
- Defining the problem
- Get validation through research
- Usability Testing
- Final refinement and delivery
There are common misconceptions when it comes to UX writing. Sometimes UX copy can come across as simple or basic. However, a lot of research has gone into understanding what works best. Certain semantics or single words can be repeatedly tested to get the best results, and the process reflects this.
The key differences between UX writing and copywriting
|The main goal is to enhance the user experience||The main goal is to make a sale|
|UX Writing helps the customer||Copywriting helps the business|
|Heavy emphasis on design principles||Heavy emphasis on human psychology and copywriting formulas|
|Sits in the Product Management or Design team. They work closely with UX Designers, Product Managers, and Developers.||Sits in the Marketing or Sales team. They work closely with Marketing Managers, Paid Media Specialists, and Product Marketing Managers.|
|Requires knowledge of tools such as Figma, Jira, Moat, Github, and Sketch.||Requires knowledge of tools such as Google Docs, Facebook Ads Library, Grammarly, and other keyword research tools.|
|No SEO knowledge is required to start||Needs to understand SEO even at a basic level|
|More technical||More creative|
|UX writers often work in teams||Copywriters often work alone|
|Pay range: $64,500 – $196,500 (USD)||Pay range: $33,000 – $230,000 (USD)|
Can a copywriter also be a UX writer?
The short answer is yes.
A copywriter can be a UX writer although there are some additional skills required.
Since UX writing doesn't involve selling a copywriter needs to understand the intent behind each prompt or “microcopy” that they write. It’s best for copywriters to take a UX writing, design, or product management course to develop the skills required to be a great UX writer.
The same would apply to a UX writer trying to become a copywriter. Specific skills are required to be successful.
My personal take on the difference
I’ve bootstrapped different products which means I’ve had to wear both hats. I currently write copy for SAAS and eCommerce businesses.
In the early days of any startup copywriting is much more important since it is directly related to sales. As customers start coming in, the onboarding and user experience becomes a higher priority. High churn rates can hurt the business very quickly. I've experienced this firsthand with Ticker Nerd. Tools such as Hotjar and User Brain have helped me improve the UX and write corresponding copy.
I like to think that copywriting helps the business make money and UX writing stops the business from losing money.
[ Related article: How to start a copywriting business ]
By now you should know that UX writing and copywriting are different. Remember, the primary goal of UX writing is to enhance user experience whereas the primary goal of copywriting is to make a sale. One isn't better than the other, they just serve very different purposes.