Perfecting the UX Copy for Mobile Apps
Check this picture out.
Now check this one out.
Or how about this too?
Now this one.
Any patterns that caught your eye? In essence, these two pairs are the same. The first example is both from different 404 pages, while the other two are from the dreaded Windows Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD). The difference is the first exhibits of each pair are boring, uninformative and hurtful for the user experience. The second ones are more laid-back, informative, meaningful and humane. They turn even the most frustrating of user experiences (error pages and BSOD) into tiny intriguing moments, making people want to stick around for more, despite not really getting what they set out to do in the first place.
That’s what you get from a UX writer. Microsoft has perfected the practice long ago, and many other desktop-bound apps and internet websites have followed suit. Now it is mobile apps’ turn to perfect their UX copy (which has less copy really). Their future success might depend on it.
What is UX copywriting?
Modern-day apps are all about user experience. But user-experience is not just about having a speedy app, sharing features at finger’s reach, or unresponsive gestures. It is also about creating meaningful conversations. Let us take a look at how Google and Dropbox describe the position of UX writer:
“As a User Experience writer, you are an advocate for Google design, working to shape product experiences by creating useful, meaningful text that helps users complete the task at hand. You help set the vision for content and drive cohesive product narratives across multiple platforms and touch points. As a stellar writer, you have a portfolio of work that demonstrates content that simplifies and beautifies the overall user experience.”
And here’s what Dropbox says: “The Dropbox design team is looking for a UX writer to create copy that’s straightforward, helpful, and human. You’ll join our small group of UX writers and add to each stage of the product development process—from exploration through implementation. On a typical day, you’ll give and get feedback in design and content critiques, observe user research, and iterate on interface copy.”
From these excerpts, one might argue that this is in fact a classic agency copywriter role with heavy “experience” focus. Yet, UX writers focus on making people happy and content about completing their tasks, while keeping wayfinding and labels in mind.
What can a UX copywriter do for a mobile app?
Sure, your app can crash every once in a blue moon, giving you the opportunity to do something similar to what we’ve seen in the screenshots above. And yes, there are empty states that can be used to improve the overall user experience, as well. But that is hardly all when it comes to places a UX writer can improve an app.
Here are a few places to consider:
In-app permissions are every app pros’ weak spot. Users are already apprehensive when it comes to allowing apps to access certain information. If not communicated properly users might not know why the app needs access to certain things and they might not give it. This can lead to a poor user experience and eventually to the users abandoning the app completely.
The login screen is usually the first impression people have about an app so it’s essential to get it right. Communicating what an app needs, why it needs it and how, while at the same time not being overwhelming with information requires careful finesse.
With that in mind, make sure to ask users to provide only the utmost necessary information. Make sure to communicate any errors as fast and as clearly as possible, and prevent them from progressing until they’re addressed. Try and use third-party information as much as possible (for example, current location), and allow them to view their passwords to minimize the risk of wrong entry. Also, don’t forget to provide default texts, as visual presentation is the fastest and easiest way to show users what the right response looks like.
Many apps use pop-ups and dialog boxes to communicate important messages to the users. It is imperative that this content is done right, which means staying within context and keeping timing in mind. If one is to add pop-ups, than those pop-ups need to be relevant to the content below them, and need to appear at a time when they won’t get in the users’ way.
Looking at everything
These are just a couple of examples, and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that mobile screens offer far less real-estate, making writing quality copy an even harder task.
Digging deeper, we can actually see that creating quality UX copy is necessary for literally every facet of an app, from onboarding, to navigation, to loyalty programs, to virtually everything else. Product and UX consultant Talisa Chang says UX copy usually revolves around a couple of key questions:
- Can we make this look better?
- Can we make it sound better?
- Can we make it more intuitive and compelling for the user?
If you want to create perfect UX copy, consider this:
- Who your users are
- What is their knowledge and background
- What are their goals and pain points
- What is their current location (are they out on the street, in public transport, or laid back at home?)
- Where are they going (after closing the app)
- How do they feel
- How do you want them to feel.
Which brings us to our latest question:
How do you perfect UX copy?
The simple answer is “by hiring a stellar UX copywriter who knows what he/she is doing and who is prepared to defend their writing until their dying breath”. A more complex answer would be “by employing A/B testing, paired with qualitative analytics tools like touch heatmaps and user session recordings. These will allow you to see how your users react to different copy and tweak accordingly”.
Perfecting your UX copy starts with a solid writer, no doubt about it. Create a couple of copy iterations and proceed with A/B testing. Start from app pages that usually have the biggest quit rates, like the login walls or mobile checkout screens. At this point, it is important to feel the pulse of your app’s users. By employing qualitative analytics tools you can not only discover which iteration works better, but also why.
For example, you can use user session recordings to see, firsthand, how your users react to various versions of your login wall. You can see which versions make them quit the app altogether, and which do quite the opposite. Touch heatmaps, on the other hand, can be used to track user behavior on different pop-ups and in-app permission requests. Play with the copy to make users more receptive to such messages, and don’t forget to keep the empathic, conversational, meaningful communication in mind.
Content is King
Those looking to have their app head and shoulders above the competition will want to pay close attention to user experience, as that is the biggest differentiator in 2017 and beyond. The most common mistake with this approach, however, is what app pros consider important for achieving a stellar user experience. Usually, it revolves around app stability and speed, the intuitiveness and responsiveness of the UI, personalization, sharing features, the elimination of the login wall or subtle tweaks like auto-filled search defaults.
You know, the technical stuff.
The copy itself, the words that make up these elements, often slips between the cracks or is an afterthought. But building a successful app is not only achieved through technical stuff – it needs to be done through things which are closest to us as humans, and that is language. And that is why you can expect the role of a UX copywriter to grab some serious limelight in the near future.