UX writing vs copywriting

Discover the key differences between UX writing and copywriting, and learn the essential skills for each role in this comprehensive guide.

UX and UI Design
UX writing vs copywriting

You might have heard about user experience (UX) writing and wondered how it differs from copywriting. As someone who has spent much of their career in marketing, I was in the same boat when I first encountered the term UX writing. 

After going down the rabbit hole of UX design and research, it became clear why major tech companies like Google, Netflix, and Microsoft are adding UX writers to their design teams. 

This article on UX writing vs copywriting has everything you need to understand their differences and the value that copywriters and UX writers bring to your design team. 

You'll also find examples for each type of writing and the skills you should look for when hiring your next UX writer or copywriter. 

Let's dive in!

UX writing vs copywriting: Summary of key differences 

The table below provides a quick look at the differences between UX writing and copywriting in terms of their focus, audience, and methods.  

It’s worth noting, however, that the role of a UX writer and copywriter can overlap depending on the project and the dynamics of the team they belong to. You'll learn more about these overlaps below. 

UX writing
Copywriting
Qualitative
Audience
Quantitative
Users and customers
Quantitative
Prospects and customers
Qualitative
Goals
Quantitative
• Facilitate interaction
• Guide users to complete a task
• Improve user experience
Quantitative
• Persuade and convert prospects/customers
• Drive sales and engagement
Qualitative
Tone
Quantitative
Conversational and empathetic
Quantitative
Persuasive and promotional
Qualitative
Focus
Quantitative
Clarity and simplicity
Quantitative
Creativity and originality
Qualitative
Examples of content
Qualitative
• Navigation labels
• Error messages
• Microcopy
Quantitative
• Sales and product pages
• Scripts
• Brochures
Quantitative
Examples of testing methods
Qualitative
• Cloze tests
• Highlighter tests
• Recall-based tests
Qualitative
• A/B tests
• Conversion optimization
Qualitative
Collaboration
Qualitative
Works closely with UX designers and product teams
Qualitative
Works closely with marketing, brand, and sales teams

What is UX writing? 

If you're a UX or UI designer, you'll be delighted to know that you don't have to write lorem ipsum in your digital prototypes. UX writers will take care of that because their focus is creating words for the user interface. 

The primary goal of UX writing is to help users navigate and interact with digital interfaces. They accomplish this through concise and easy-to-understand language. 

Sophie Tahran, Director of Content Design at Conde Nast, explains it well:

"There's a time and a place for ornate writing. Marketing emails and blog posts offer enough real estate to rhapsodize about your latest product. UX writing, on the other hand, doesn't pair so well with a thesaurus."

UX writing is not just about writing words. Candi Williams, Director of Content Design at Bumble, elaborates on this:

"Crafting the words is just one part of the role. Making sure people understand them, that they resonate, meet real needs, and users can act on them, that's the crucial bit. It goes far beyond just click-throughs and search rankings." 

Testing for how users can quickly find information on a website or if they can purchase from an eCommerce store successfully are examples of tests that UX writers do to gauge if their content is as clear and understandable as possible to users. 

Learn more: This video shows what a workday is like for a UX writer at Google. 

Examples of UX writing

ux writing
An example of UX writing: An error message on the Immigration of New Zealand's login page.

Here are some examples of UX writing to help you understand the discipline better:

  • Error messages: The text that appears when you make a mistake or encounter an error, such as "Incorrect password" or "Please enter a valid email address".
  • Navigation labels: The text that appears on menus and links, such as "Home", "About us", or "Contact".
  • Onboarding screens: The text that appears when you open an app or website for the first time.
  • Form fields: The text next to input fields, such as "Full name" or "Phone number".
  • Tooltips: The text that appears when you hover over an element, providing additional information or context.
  • Empty states: The text you see when there's no content to display, such as "No results found" or "Your cart is empty".

Skills to look for in a UX writer

ux writing skills

If you're looking to hire a UX writer for your team full-time or as a freelancer, be on the lookout for the following skills. 

Writing

A good UX writer should have exceptional writing skills. They should be able to write clear, concise, and helpful copy that’s easy to understand. 

User research

UX writers need to have a deep understanding of user needs, behaviors, and motivations. They should know how to conduct qualitative and quantitative research, including how to analyze user feedback to create content that meets the user's needs.

Wireframing and prototyping

UX writers should know how to create wireframes and test prototypes to communicate their ideas and collaborate with designers and developers. 

Collaboration 

UX writers need to collaborate with product managers, UX and UI designers, UX researchers, ResearchOps, developers, and other stakeholders to ensure that content fits with the overall design and functionality of the product.

Stakeholder management 

UX writing isn’t just about writing. It also requires handling conflicts and disagreements with stakeholders diplomatically and finding ways to resolve them.

Empathy 

UX writers should have empathy for users and be able to understand their pain points and needs. This will help them create user-centric content and improve the overall user experience.

Knowledge of UX design principles

UX writers should understand UX design principles and how they can help create a helpful user experience. 

Problem solving

Another important skill for UX writers is the ability to identify and solve problems related to content development and management. They should also be able to identify opportunities to improve the overall user experience.

Attention to detail

UX writers should have a keen eye for detail, because small changes in wording can significantly affect the user experience.

Analytical skills

UX writers should have strong analytical skills, as they need to measure the effectiveness of their content and make data-driven decisions to improve it.

Agility and flexibility

UX writers should be adaptable. They need to work in an ever-changing environment and be able to adjust their writing style to fit different products and audiences.

Now that you have an idea what UX writers do, let's look at what copywriters do and how their role differs from UX writers. 

How is copywriting different from UX writing?

Copywriting and UX writing are both forms of writing. However, their difference lies in their purpose. 

Copywriting focuses on persuading and selling, while UX writing leans toward creating clear and concise content that enhances the user's experience with a product or service.

Let's take a closer look at these differences below. 

Purpose

Copywriting aims to persuade the audience to take a specific action, such as making a purchase or filling out a sign-up form. On the other hand, UX writing aims to improve the user experience by providing precise and concise copy that guides the user through a digital product or service.

Scope

Copywriting typically focuses on a single piece of content, such as an advertisement or product description. UX writing involves creating microcopy that works together to provide a seamless user experience. 

Audience

Copywriting usually targets a specific audience and aims to appeal to their emotions and desires. UX writing targets all users of a product or service, and aims to provide them with the information they need to complete a task or achieve a goal. 

Tone

Copywriters are typically more persuasive in their tone because they want to grab the reader's attention and motivate them to take action. Meanwhile, UX writing uses a neutral tone focused on providing clear and concise information.

Process

Copywriting often involves customer research and A/B testing to identify the most effective messaging and calls to action. UX writing also requires research and testing, but the focus is on ensuring the content addresses user needs. These include cloze tests, highlighter tests, and usability tests.

Copywriting examples

copywriting examples
An example of copywriting: Landing page by Pitch

Here are some copywriting examples:

  • Headlines and taglines for advertisements or marketing campaigns.
  • Product descriptions for online stores or e-commerce websites.
  • Social media posts and captions to promote products or services.
  • Email newsletters and promotional emails to engage with customers and drive sales.
  • Landing pages for websites designed to convert visitors into customers.
  • Brochures and sales collateral for businesses to showcase their products or services.
  • Scripts for TV or radio commercials.
  • Press releases and media kits for businesses to communicate with the media and public.
  • Video scripts for explainer videos, product demos, or social media videos.
  • SEO copywriting for website pages and blog posts to improve search engine rankings.

Learn more: This video illustrates what a copywriter does on a day-to-day basis. 

Skills to look for in a copywriter

copywriting skills

If you've decided you need to hire a copywriter, here are some key skills you should look for. 

Writing 

Like UX writers, copywriters must have strong writing skills, including proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and the ability to create high-quality content that engages and informs readers.

Understanding of different target audiences

Copywriters need to have a deep understanding of the target audience they’re writing for. They’ll need this in order to write in a tone and style that resonates with the audience and to achieve the desired results.

Research

Copywriters should be able to research and understand a wide range of topics and industries, including technical or specialized areas, in order to create accurate and interesting copy for clients. 

Creativity

Creativity is important for copywriters so they can generate new ideas and concepts and make their content stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Communication 

Copywriters must have strong communication skills in order to collaborate effectively with clients, team members, and other stakeholders. This includes the ability to explain complex ideas and constructively receive and respond to feedback.

Attention to detail 

Copywriters must be meticulous and pay attention to detail to ensure that their content is accurate, consistent, and free of errors.

Time management

Copywriters often write under tight deadlines and manage multiple projects simultaneously. For this reason, time (and energy!) management is important to prioritize tasks. 

Marketing and advertising knowledge

Copywriters should understand marketing and advertising principles, consumer behavior, and market trends so they can create content that meets business objectives.

Knowledge of design principles

Copywriters should have a basic understanding of design principles in order to understand how their copy fits into visual layouts and so they can collaborate effectively with designers.

Flexibility

Copywriters should be able to adjust their writing style and tone based on client feedback and requirements so they can deliver high-quality content that meets the brief.

UX writing vs copywriting: Hiring the right role for your team

While both roles require excellent writing skills, UX writing and copywriting have very different purposes in design teams.

Hiring a UX writer makes sense if your team needs help with copy that guides users through the product's interface. Meanwhile, you might need a copywriter if you’re after more promotional or persuasive content.

Both roles are essential to the success of a product, and finding the right fit for your team depends on your business needs and objectives. 

Looking to improve the user experience of your website or product, or test how your copy resonates with your target audience? Try UsabilityHub, a powerful platform that allows you to test your designs and copy, and get valuable feedback from real users. Sign up for a free plan today and see how UsabilityHub can help you create a better user experience.

Frequently asked questions about UX writing vs copywriting

What is UX writing vs copywriting vs content writing?

UX writing is focused on crafting copy for digital products that help guide users to complete desired actions, while copywriting involves creating persuasive and compelling language to promote a brand, product or service.

What skills do you need to be a UX writer?

As a UX writer, you need to have excellent writing skills, be able to think critically, have empathy for users, understand UX design principles, have attention to detail, and be comfortable with collaboration and feedback.

What skills do you need to be a copywriter?
As a copywriter, you need strong writing and creativity skills, the ability to write persuasive and engaging copy, an understanding of branding and messaging, and the ability to adapt to different mediums and audiences. 

Can a copywriter become a UX writer?
A copywriter can become a UX writer by developing skills such as user research, information architecture, and usability testing, and by understanding the principles of UX design and how they apply to content.

Kai has been creating content for healthcare, design, and SaaS brands for over a decade. She also manages content (like a digital librarian of sorts). Hiking in nature, lap swimming, books, tea, and cats are some of her favorite things. Check out her digital nook or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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