Copywriting?

18 Jun 2008 - 9:22am
6 years ago
8 replies
930 reads
Ami Rotter
2007

Hi,

From time to time I find myself struggling with writing very short
describing text labels and titles for our web application's UI.

Writing text labels and titles for the UI is much like writing road
signs, people go by them in very high speeds and you have a limited
amount of space.

I wanted to ask, how many of you work in companies who hire full time
copywriters? Part time?

Do you have a special UI copywriter adviser outsourced?

Or do you manage by yourselves and just advise anyone around you?

Thanks,

Amihay.

Comments

18 Jun 2008 - 11:13am
Angel Anderson
2010

We have two part time copy writers who are primarily responsible for write
user admin guides, release notes, and training materials. We also rely on
them to copy edit the UI by reading through our form and behavior spec and
making changes to field labels, dialog boxes, and error messages. It's
really helpful to have them review everything especially since we have to
translate most of the UI into over 40 languages so we need to get it right
before we spend all that money on translation.

On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 7:22 AM, Amihay Rotter <amihay.rotter at eyeblaster.com>
wrote:

> Hi,
>
> >From time to time I find myself struggling with writing very short
> describing text labels and titles for our web application's UI.
>
>
>
> Writing text labels and titles for the UI is much like writing road
> signs, people go by them in very high speeds and you have a limited
> amount of space.
>
>
>
> I wanted to ask, how many of you work in companies who hire full time
> copywriters? Part time?
>
> Do you have a special UI copywriter adviser outsourced?
>
> Or do you manage by yourselves and just advise anyone around you?
>
>
>
> Thanks,
>
> Amihay.
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

18 Jun 2008 - 11:53am
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> I wanted to ask, how many of you work in companies who hire full time
> copywriters? Part time?
>

I once worked in a company where there was a whole Documentation team, chock
full of great and talented people. And they developed all these wonderful,
informed, educated standards in an effort to maintain consistency across a
large portfolio of applications.

The CEO, however, arbitrarily decided that all OK/Cancel button sets should
be labeled ... "OK" and "Cancel". And they should be identical to each
other.

Didn't matter what the page or task flow was supposed to do, or what "OK"
meant in one case, or what "Cancel" meant in another. All that mattered was
that they said exactly what he thought they should say.

So, this team spent all their team crafting wonderful and informative Help
documentation to answer questions about how to use the features within the
application. But if the buttons had been more meaningful, the articles could
have been shorter. In other words, the CEO was paying the team to help users
work around his bad decisions.

You can have a team of 100 great copywriters, but if you also have a
"Control Freak in Charge" (CFIC), it won't make an iota of difference.
First, you have to sell the CFIC on intelligent decisions.

-r-

18 Jun 2008 - 7:51pm
.pauric
2006

Hi Amihay

I'm of the opinion that if I find myself having to write copy for a
UI there's room for improvement with the design of the UI itself.
Many make the argument that the best UI is >blank< i.e. the system
just 'does'. While thats an ideal, its fair to say the inverse of
this is an overly copy laden interface.

To that end, a small amount of root cause analysis cant hurt.. why am
I writing copy? why does the UI need inline help? why does the
architecture mandate that UI structure? etc etc... While you might
not be able to fix everything, you might be able to find room for
improvement.. reduce the copy and increase flow.

regards - pauric

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30365

19 Jun 2008 - 5:30am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

I think that Pauric is on the mark, but also think that the text on an
interface is the most important documentation for the product and
issues of clarity, consistency, idios, metaphor, and such are often
critical in complex interfaces and a consistency review is often quite
a useful approach. For example, in complex products, you might find
that you have OK, Done, Finish, Submit, Do It!, ..... and they all
mean the same thing. Each new word for the same function results in
added cognitive complexity and also puts a higher burden on
translators. Now, it is quite a good thing if you fix the
architecture of a product and eliminate a lot UI stuff that isn't
needed. There is also discussion in the research literature about
things like semantic consistency where you have try to have words that
have strong affinities like "Previous" and "Next" instead of
"Previous" and "Forward". There are many subtle issues with wording
that can affect one's interaction with a product like words that can
be both nouns and verbs (tough for translators, but can also result in
added cognitive burden in general). For example, words like "plan",
"file" and "view" could be misconstrued in some labels.

So, systems are always compromises and a RCA might reveal deeper
problems that should be addressed, but any system that uses text and
labels should get a thorough consistency review (and copyedit) to
reduce the cognitive load. I think that tech writers and editors
should be in on early reviews of conceptual and detailed UI specs and
not just worked on the help and other user assistance.

Chauncey

On Wed, Jun 18, 2008 at 8:51 PM, pauric <radiorental at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Amihay
>
> I'm of the opinion that if I find myself having to write copy for a
> UI there's room for improvement with the design of the UI itself.
> Many make the argument that the best UI is >blank< i.e. the system
> just 'does'. While thats an ideal, its fair to say the inverse of
> this is an overly copy laden interface.
>
> To that end, a small amount of root cause analysis cant hurt.. why am
> I writing copy? why does the UI need inline help? why does the
> architecture mandate that UI structure? etc etc... While you might
> not be able to fix everything, you might be able to find room for
> improvement.. reduce the copy and increase flow.
>
> regards - pauric
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30365
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

19 Jun 2008 - 12:49am
Ami Rotter
2007

Thank you all for your answers,

Angel,
We do have a team of technical writers who do all of the writing and
documentation, the problem is that are used to writing long detailed
help notes,
And it%u2019s very hard to get short and snappy phrases out of them.

Pauric, I found your answer very inspiring, and I do agree with that
approach,
I still need to have titles or button text labels even with the most
minimalistic design approach.

Thanks again!
Amihay.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30365

18 Jun 2008 - 11:26am
DanielSouza
2007

Hi,

In the company i work for the UX team writes all
labels, error messages, UI components description, help messages,
faqs, titles (and sometimes, SEO guidelines).

We focus on the "must have" information and "call to actions" for each interface
Them, before product launch, all texts are reviewed by copywriters.

Its a unusual process, but we´re always trying to align interaction design and
brand translation goals, so we think the copywriters and I.A´s can work together
to achieve real meaning in system messages for our users, in a specific language for
each audience.

[]´s

Daniel Souza
IXD & IA @ knowtec.com

----- Original Message ----
From: Amihay Rotter <amihay.rotter at eyeblaster.com>
To: discuss at ixda.org
Sent: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 11:22:16 AM
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Copywriting?

Hi,

>From time to time I find myself struggling with writing very short
describing text labels and titles for our web application's UI.

Writing text labels and titles for the UI is much like writing road
signs, people go by them in very high speeds and you have a limited
amount of space.

I wanted to ask, how many of you work in companies who hire full time
copywriters? Part time?

Do you have a special UI copywriter adviser outsourced?

Or do you manage by yourselves and just advise anyone around you?

Thanks,

Amihay.

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

18 Jun 2008 - 11:30am
Mabel Ney
2008

We have several copywriters and technical writers in our marketing and
communications dept. TAlthough the interaction design team takes an
initial stab at labeling and messaging, we always have a review by
these folks as well as a proofreader. The technical writers assist
with everything from help to error messaging and asssuring consistent
use of labels across all products and web applications. Our
copywriters are engaged more for marketing messaging but also assist
with concise yet evocative labels. Both groups are very aware of our
customers' language and mental models and are quick to eradicate any
internal language that is not acknowledged by our users.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30365

30 Jun 2008 - 4:46pm
Sean Bentley
2008

I'm part of user experience team consisting of designers, usability engineers, and UI text writers like myself. Our designers and writers collaborate with each other and program managers on specs -- in the best cases, from the ground up. A separate user assistance team writes documentation.

We have copious style guidelines and terminology guides on how to achieve the best interaction design from a textual as well as design viewpoint, and a good many of the wording choices we are faced with indicate changing designs that should have been clearer, in both minor or major ways. And of course we like to make sure the language is consistent, clear, concise, technically accurate, and easily localizable, and takes accessibility issues into consideration.

I'm lucky -- this collaborative situation is ideal, and not all companies or product teams can afford to take this approach -- I also have been on teams where UA writers have either been asked at the last minute to tweak UI text, or at best asked to oversee UI text while writing Help, without the time to understand in depth the immediate interaction, considering causes and effects of each option label, command, or error message they are touching.

UI text is the front line of communication between the user and the product, so it's worth the time and money to do it thoroughly.

Cheers
Sean

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