UX writing

Where UX writing fits in on the design team

Learn where UX writing fits in on the design team and the difference between UX and UI.
ux writing team
ux writing team
In: UX writing

So, you understand what UX writing is, but how does it fit into the larger picture of “design”?

UX writers can't work alone and are an integral part of the product design team. But because our discipline is somewhat new, it's important to understand where we fit into the design process and the world of UX in general.

In this lesson, I’m going to explain how UX writing fits into the design process and debunk some terms you might have heard.

UX vs UI

Are you biting your nails over making a screen “pretty”? Well, if you are, I have some good news — UX writing isn’t in the business of beautification. That’s the difference between UX and UI.

User experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design are two halves of product design. UX writing fits into the UX design bucket, which means you are *absolutely* not responsible for making things “pretty.”

UX design is all about creating clear, useful, and hassle-free experiences for the user. UX design involves things like:

  • Personas (aka caricatures of your bread-and-butter users)
  • User stories (aka a short, simple description of a feature told from the perspective of the user)
  • User research (aka interviewing users to learn about them and their preferences)
  • Usability testing (aka getting feedback from users on the usability of designs)

On the flip side, UI design is the graphical layout of an experience. The main goal of UI design is to create a user interface that is engaging, attractive, and intuitive. UI design involves things like:

  • Layout
  • Visual design
  • Branding

Here’s a handy chart that breaks down the difference:

ux vs ui
Image credit: Anima

So, long story short, UX writers don’t need to concern themselves with beautifying designs, and instead, sit on the side of producing the design that creates an optimal user experience.

So, there are three terms our design counterparts go by:

1. UX designer
2. UI designer
3. Product designer

What can I say, we love our lingo in the design world 🤓 UX designer and UI designer are two distinct roles. Product designer describes someone who works on both UX and UI. Product designer is the most common term, and it’s what I’ll refer to.

UX writing vs. product design

There’s a lot of overlap between what UX writers do and what product designers do, and on any given project, a UX writer and a product designer might overlap on tasks.

Here’s an example from the Indeed design team on how they think through a UX writer’s responsibilities compared to a UX designer’s, or product designer’s, responsibilities on any given project:

ux writing vs ux design
Image source: Indeed Design

There are clear divisions, of which some are obvious, like the UX writer being responsible for UX writing and a content audit, and the UX designer, or product designer, being responsible for visual design and interaction design.

There are some activities, like competitor research or user flows, where you could see either the UX writer or the UX/product designer being responsible. This is because the two roles are quite similar, and some tasks can be interchanged.

The biggest difference between UX writing and product design is that the UX writer creates the conversation between the product and the user, while the product designer creates an intuitive space for that conversation to happen.

Why can’t it just be one role?

It’s very important to separate UX writing from product design for 3 reasons:

  1. You need an expert on the job
  2. One person can’t sweat every detail
  3. It’s not realistic for someone to do 3 jobs

1. You need an expert on the job

While UX writing and product design are deeply intertwined, they’re more like close cousins than identical twins.

UX writing and product design need to work together, but that doesn’t mean they can swap roles.

That’s because UX writers are trained to think about:

  • The power of words (or lack thereof)
  • Nuances of voice and tone
  • Content hierarchy
  • Jargon
  • Conventions and style consistency

On the other hand, product designers are trained to think about:

  • Composition
  • Visual language
  • Visual hierarchy
  • Color
  • Typography

And there’s a lot more where that comes from.

UX writing and product design are different ways of thinking rooted in different skill sets, even though they work together to achieve a common goal.

2. One person can’t sweat every detail

Product designers don’t have the time to focus on every piece of microcopy, and it’s also, in some cases, not their main interest.

When you hire a UX writer to zone in on the UX content alone, you allow a member of your team to get outside the weeds and see the bigger picture.

UX writers think about how the content across an entire product stitches together. That’s partly because they have time to. If someone has to design an entire experience, from pixel to punctuation, how do they have the headspace to sweat the details?

3. It’s not realistic for someone to do 3 jobs

Asking an individual to be an effective UI designer, UX designer, and UX writer is asking them to be a rainbow unicorn.

How can someone be effective at 3 separate jobs, all in the span of a project that “we need to get out the door quickly”?

According to GoRemotely, the average employee is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes a day. When you add that to the fact that multitasking can hurt productivity by 40%, it’s clear product designers expected to also do UX writing aren’t thriving.

Not to mention, doing 3 jobs at once is stressful, and 50% of employees lose 1–5 hours of work due to stress alone.

When you take that all into account, the reality is to assume UX writing isn’t given as much thought as the visuals if a product designer is doing it all. And without thoughtful UX writing:

  • Your product will be less consistent, which will cause people to lose trust
  • People who don’t read will be less likely to understand what’s going on
  • Your product won’t sound as human, creating a less comfortable experience
  • The brand voice won’t be flexed, which could have saved delicate moments
  • You’ll lose time and money

A survey from Indeed found 52% of respondents feel burned out. Ipso facto, UX writers help keep companies afloat.

There ya have it. Where UX writing fits in is constantly evolving, so check back to this lesson as I update it with the times.

Happy UX writing 🖖

Written by
Slater Katz
As founder of The UX Gal, my mission is to make learning UX writing fantastically-simple and landing a job easy. I've held UX writing jobs at companies like Netflix, Fitbit, Verizon, Afterpay, & more.
More from The UX Gal
Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to The UX Gal.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.