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UX Writing and Microcopy: Transitioning to UX From Other Fields – Success Stories and Guidance

Introduction

User experience (UX) design has become one of the most in-demand skills in tech. As companies realize the importance of designing intuitive, frictionless experiences, they are scrambling to hire UX designers. This increased demand has opened up opportunities for professionals from other backgrounds to transition into UX design.

In particular, UX writing and microcopy are attracting newcomers from fields like marketing, communications, journalism, and technical writing. While UX writing requires a different skillset, the core strengths from these related fields transfer well.

This comprehensive guide collects advice and success stories from professionals who have transitioned into UX writing from other backgrounds. It provides practical guidance on how to pivot your skills and build up the necessary UX expertise.

First, we will define UX writing and microcopy for those new to the field. Next, we will explore the core transferable skills that enable transitions from marketing, journalism, technical writing, and content strategy.

Then, we will share tips directly from professionals who have made the leap into UX writing themselves. Finally, we will provide guidance on how to build up your portfolio, determine when you are job-ready, and land that crucial first UX writing role.

What Exactly is UX Writing and Microcopy?

Before exploring how to transition into the field, let’s quickly define UX writing and microcopy for those new to these terms.

UX Writing

UX writing refers to the text that users interact with in digital products and experiences. This includes:

  • Button labels
  • Form field placeholders
  • Tooltips
  • Error messages
  • Notifications
  • Menus
  • And any other instructional text within an interface

UX writers craft language that shapes a user’s experience at each touchpoint in the product. The text provides cues to help users navigate interfaces efficiently and accomplish key tasks.

UX writers collaborate closely with designers and developers throughout the product creation process. Their goal is to optimize the text to make interfaces intuitive and easy to use.

This requires deep user empathy, meticulous iterative testing, and research skills to continuously improve the product text.

In summary, UX writers:

  • Craft microcopy, help text, and other UI language
  • Ensure the product’s text is useful, consistent, and matches the brand voice
  • Optimize text to guide users to complete key actions
  • Collaborate with cross-functional teams
  • Research and test language with users
  • Drive continuous improvement

Microcopy

Microcopy is a specific type of UX writing. It refers to short pieces of instructional and informational text within an interface.

Examples of microcopy include:

  • Button labels
  • Form field labels and placeholders
  • Tooltips
  • Error messages
  • Success messages and confirmations
  • Inline help text
  • Notifications
  • Custom validation error messages

Microcopy is focused on being scannable, succinct, and action-oriented. The goal is to provide users with just enough information to take the next step.

Style guidelines often ensure microcopy remains brief (1-3 words), human readable, and avoids technical jargon. Exceptional microcopy feels like a helpful assistant guiding the user along.

The Crucial Role of UX Writers

Skilled UX writers enhance the user experience in countless ways:

  • They craft microcopy that feels natural versus robotic or overwhelming.
  • They optimize flows by eliminating unnecessary steps and guiding users with just the right amount of instruction.
  • They resolve confusing language and errors through user research and testing.
  • They ensure accessibility for all users through inclusive language and alternate formats.
  • They maintain brand consistency through thoughtful tone and personality.

By collaborating closely with designers and developers, UX writers ensure the product text guides users to accomplish key tasks as efficiently as possible.

In summary, UX writing and microcopy require a blend of empathy, communication ability, research skills, and a passion for continuously optimizing interactions.

Now that we have defined these key terms, let’s look at which professionals are best positioned to transition into UX writing…

Core Transferable Skills From Other Fields

Professionals from several related fields will find their expertise transfers well into UX writing.

While some upskilling is required, the core strengths from these backgrounds provide a strong foundation to build upon:

Transferable Skills From Marketing and Communications

  • Understanding brand voice and tone
  • Writing succinct, scannable copy
  • Researching target users and personas
  • Running surveys and focus groups to test messaging
  • Collaborating with creative teams
  • Creating campaigns and style guides

Transferable Skills From Journalism:

  • Conducting primary research through interviews and observations
  • Distilling complex topics into clear, simple language
  • Adapting content for specific audiences
  • Collaborating with editors and designers
  • Structuring content in a logical, compelling way
  • Meeting tight deadlines

Transferable Skills From Technical Writing:

  • Breaking down complex processes into steps
  • Writing clear instructions and documentation
  • Structuring and organizing information
  • Using feedback from subject matter experts (SMEs)
  • Testing content with users
  • Following style guides and standards

Transferable Skills From Content Strategy:

  • Content planning and auditing
  • Mapping content to business goals and user needs
  • Maintaining consistent voice, tone, and messaging
  • Optimizing content based on data and testing
  • Collaborating with subject matter experts
  • Developing governance processes and guidelines

The expertise built up in these allied fields reduces the learning curve when transitioning into UX writing roles. Next, we will share guidance directly from professionals who have made the switch themselves.

Guidance from Marketing and Communications Pros

Marketing and communications professionals spend their days composing copy that speaks to buyers and users. This core skillset around messaging and brand voice makes for a relatively smooth transition into UX writing.

Here are some tips for making the switch, directly from professionals with marketing backgrounds:

1. Take Online Classes in UX Basics

“There are so many free and low-cost resources out there today. I took a UX research course on Coursera and probably watched every YouTube tutorial out there from Nielsen Norman Group. I brushed up on information architecture, usability testing moderation, accessibility, wireframing – all super helpful.”

  • Sarah L., Senior UX Writer

2. Find Opportunities to Practice UX Writing

“Any chance I got, I practiced writing microcopy. I redesigned form flows and error messages on apps I used daily. I contributed content for free to some open source product docs and nonprofits. Getting hands-on experience under my belt was crucial.”

  • Tom H., UX Content Strategist

3. Study UX Principles and Patterns

“I read everything I could from thought leaders in the industry. I immersed myself in case studies from companies doing UX well. I also started noticing patterns in navigation and flows across the products and apps I used daily. That helped me start thinking like a UX designer.”

  • Sarah L., Senior UX Writer

4. Brush Up On Research Skills

“The research piece was newer for me coming from marketing. So I took a course in user research methods and usability testing. I also volunteered to help a local nonprofit with some guerrilla user testing. That experience was invaluable.”

  • Tom H., UX Content Strategist

5. Highlight Process Experience

“I made sure my resume and portfolio called out collaborative projects, style guides I’d written, and other process-oriented work. I wanted to show I understood UX is a collaborative effort.”

  • Sarah L., Senior UX Writer

6. Network, Connect with a Mentor

“Finding a mentor made a world of difference. She gave me feedback on my portfolio, talked me through which skills to focus on, and helped me shape my resume. I met her through a local UX meetup.”

  • Tom H., UX Content Strategist

7. Consider Internships or Pro Bono Work

“I knew I needed experience. I figured even an unpaid internship was worth it for the hands-on learning. I applied until I found a 6-month gig that turned into my first UX job.”

  • Sarah L., Senior UX Writer

By combining existing copywriting skills with UX methodology and tools, marketing professionals can successfully transition into professional UX writing roles.

Next, let’s explore tips for journalists looking to make the leap…

Tips for Transitioning from Journalism to UX Writing

For journalists, UX writing provides an opportunity to apply strengths like research, interviewing, and clear explanatory writing in a new context.

Here are tips for transitioning from journalism into UX writing, straight from professionals who have walked that path:

1. Take a UX Course to Learn Deliverables

“I took an 8-week UX course online. Seeing examples of deliverables like user personas, journey maps, and prototypes gave me a clearer picture of how research translates into design.”

  • Michael R., UX Content Writer

2. Get Hands-On with UX Tools

“To complement my writing skills, I knew I needed to get fluent in the apps UX designers use daily. I went through tons of tutorials for Figma, Adobe XD, etc. That gave me confidence I could collaborate in those tools.”

  • Amy T., Senior UX Copywriter

3. Build Your Portfolio Through Projects

“I wrote blog posts and guides for a couple open source products to start building my UX writing samples. I also offered to rewrite copy for a local nonprofit site for free. Having those portfolio pieces was clutch.”

  • Michael R., UX Content Writer

4. Volunteer for Usability Tests

“I reached out to a few local startups and offered to help facilitate their usability tests for free. That experience moderating and observing tests was invaluable.”

  • Amy T., Senior UX Copywriter

5. Shadow UX Designers

“I set up informational interviews to pick the brains of designers at a couple agencies. I learned so much about their day-to-day process and skills I should focus on. It helped me immensely.”

  • Michael R., UX Content Writer

6. Attend UX Events to Network

“Conferences and meetups helped me make connections. I met peers I could learn from, and eventually a mentor who helped me land my first UX gig.”

  • Amy T., Senior UX Copywriter

7. Tailor Your Resume

“I emphasized research skills, collaborating with creative teams, meeting tight deadlines – anything to underscore I could deliver what UX teams need.”

  • Michael R., UX Content Writer

For journalists, UX provides an outlet to apply storytelling and communication skills in a digital product context. With some strategic upskilling, the transition into UX writing is very attainable.

Now, let’s look at tips for technical writers looking to branch into UX…

Tips for Technical Writers Switching to UX Writing

Technical writers likely possess many of the core skills needed to thrive in UX writing roles. Here are tips on leveraging tech comm experience from those who have walked the path:

1. Take a UX Foundations Course

“My tech comm experience gave me solid content skills, but I needed to get up to speed on UX jargon, methodologies, deliverables and tools. An online intro course helped fast track me.”

  • Sheila S., UX Copywriter

2. Lean On Your Information Architecture Skills

“I had lots of practice structuring complicated technical information and dividing things into tasks. That IA experience transferred directly into organizing menus, flows, help content.”

  • Matt J., Lead UX Writer

3. Brush Up On UI Patterns and Components

“I tried to learn as much UI lingo as possible. I studied navigation schemes, menu structures, button conventions across iOS, Android, and responsive sites.”

  • Sheila S., UX Copywriter

4. Contribute Content to Open Source Projects

“I looked for opportunities to write and improve documentation for open source tools on GitHub. This helped me demonstrate UX writing skills.”

  • Matt J., Lead UX Writer

5. Critically Evaluate Products You Use

“I started auditing and rewriting the UI text in apps I used regularly. Exercising that critical eye and practicing optimizing flows helped a ton.”

  • Sheila S., UX Copywriter

6. Connect with UX Writers on LinkedIn

“I found UX writers working at companies I admired and reached out over LinkedIn. Several offered helpful advice on sharpening my UX writing skills.”

  • Matt J., Lead UX Writer

7. Tailor Your Resume and Portfolio

“I really focused my resume and portfolio on showcasing my collaboration skills and any design process experience.”

  • Sheila S., UX Copywriter

For technical writers, leaning into core skills like information architecture, documentation, and SME collaboration enables a smooth transition into professional UX writing roles.

Next up, let’s explore tips for transitioning from content strategy…

Tips for Content Strategists Moving Into UX Writing

Content strategists adept at optimizing websites and editorial content can apply similar skills when shifting into UX writing. Here are tips from those who have made the transition successfully:

1. Study Examples of Brand Voice in UI Text

“I pulled together examples of voice and tone from Apple, Google, Starbucks and others. Evaluating how their brand came through in microcopy helped me learn to do the same.”

  • Wendy T., UX Content Strategist

2. Critically Evaluate Microcopy in Every App

“I started analyzing the microcopy in all my apps trying to spot unclear areas. Exercising that optimization muscle helped me later on.”

  • Frank W., Lead UX Writer

3. Take a Course on Information Architecture

“Since IA is so central to UX, I knew I needed to level up my skills there. An online course helped me get up to speed on best practices.”

  • Wendy T., UX Content Strategist

4. Practice Writing UI Text

“Any chance I could, I drafted tooltips, help text, error messages for products I used, thinking how I could improve the copy.”

  • Frank W., Lead UX Writer

5. Study Examples of Voice and Tone Guidelines

“I looked at voice and tone examples from leading brands. This helped me understand how to maintain consistency across UI text.”

  • Wendy T., UX Content Strategist

6. Critically Evaluate Microcopy in Apps

“I tried to pinpoint microcopy areas for improvement in products I used daily. Doing this over and over trained my eye to spot optimization opportunities.”

  • Frank W., Lead UX Writer

7. Connect with UX Writers Online or In-Person

“I reached out to UX writers through LinkedIn and meetups to get insider advice. Those connections were invaluable.”

  • Wendy T., UX Content Strategist

For content strategists, enhancing existing strengths around optimization, information architecture, and brand voice management enables an easy transition into UX writing roles.

Signs You’re Ready to Start Applying for UX Writing Jobs

After spending time honing your skills and building up your portfolio, how do you know when you are truly ready to start applying and interviewing for UX writing jobs?

Here are some signs that indicate you are prepared to confidently enter the job market as a competitive UX writing candidate:

You have a solid grasp of UX fundamentals – You understand key processes like user research, design thinking, usability testing. You know common UX deliverables like personas, journey maps, wireframes.

You can speak fluently about UX – You use terms like microcopy, IA, wireflows, prototyping confidently. No need to fake it till you make it.

Your portfolio shows mastery of UI writing – You have strong microcopy samples showcasing error message improvements, redesigned CTAs, new tooltips, help text examples.

You can confidently critique UX copy – You can pinpoint flaws in existing microcopy, help text, error messaging and explain clearly how to improve it.

You have hands-on experience with UX design tools – You have working knowledge of Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD or other platforms commonly used by UX teams.

You have connections in the UX community – You actively participate in online groups, have expanded your UX network, and have touched base with UX meetups and events.

You’ve received positive mentor feedback – You have a mentor, or have gotten portfolio feedback from UX designers, who have validated your skills and given you the green light to start applying.

When you feel ready across the above areas, it is time to start job hunting! Next we will cover building a stand-out portfolio and finding that first role.

Creating a Stand-Out UX Writing Portfolio

A design portfolio is your ticket to landing those first opportunities as a UX writer. Treat your portfolio as a design project itself. Curate examples that highlight your strengths across:

Microcopy Samples

Showcase optimized microcopy – improved error messages, redesigned CTAs, new tooltips or help text. This proves you can enhance real interfaces.

Style Guides

Include snippets of brand voice guides, style guides, or pattern libraries you’ve created. This shows you can maintain consistency.

Accessibility

Demonstrate microcopy optimized for accessibility through descriptive link text, image captions, video closed captions, alt text for visuals.

Process Discussion

Pull back the curtain on your process by including excerpts from user journey maps, research findings, or microcopy usability test results.

Visuals

Simple wireframes or UI screenshots can provide context around your microcopy and text samples.

Contents

By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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