Ever noticed the similarities between a copywriter
approaching an article and a UX laying out an interface? Hierarchy,
pace, consistency, hooks and editing are just five of
the principles uniting us - as we seek to make better
user experiences through words and design. So how do
these principles play out day-to-day?
1. Hierarchy: guide the journey and narrative
Hierarchy is central to successful interfaces and
writing. Imagine newspaper articles without headlines, stand-firsts
or subheads. The reader would be lost; having no idea of relative
importance or the natural flow of the copy.
Likewise on an interface, hierarchy creates a visual flow
to information; whether through positioning,
colours, weighting or use of imagery. Without
hierarchy, each piece of content would be shouting
for attention; overwhelming the
user with choices and making them less likely to
2. Progressive disclosure: power to the people
The parallels made between newspaper journalism and
online copywriting are long-standing (think 'inverted pyramid').
But the publishing / digital analogue can be taken further through
progressive disclosure. In magazines, contents pages give a taster
of the articles, allowing readers to decide what they want to
The same applies online, with landing pages showing
summary content and users 'choosing' to go into more
detail (not being dumped into it). Reveal content as needed, set
the pace, like the plot of a good book.
3. Consistency: professional and predictable
Nothing looks more unprofessional than a word spelt
differently throughout an article: 'why not visit the web site
for more; the website address is web-site.com'.
A company name spelt wrong undermines the brand, while the absence
of a house style breeds
It's the same story for
an interface, where consistency gives the user
something to hold on to as they learn how to use the
site. Consistent colours and active states for
links; page titles that match navigation labels and
interactions functioning in a predictable way, all help the
user avoid the unexpected.
4. Find the hook: be memorable
Online copywriting is about creating 'sticky
content' that users engage with, revisit, link to and
share via social media. This means finding a memorable hook
for your story - whether humorous,
controversial or informative. The same is
true of user experiences, which should be memorable,
potentially viral and based on one core idea. Stickiness in
interfaces doesn't necessarily mean whizzy, sometimes it can be as
simple as a barrier-free checkout process.
5. Brutal editing: kill the clutter
Reading online is up to 25 per cent slower
than reading offline - so each word has to count. On an interface
the same applies, always ask do we need that button, could we lose
a promotion to reduce the clutter? Every aspect of a web page
must serve a purpose; taking users on
intuitive journeys to their end goals. Keep it task
focused, cut the waffle, remove visual noise and make
it worth the effort.
For me, writing and designing are two
sides of the same coin. When both are given equal respect and time,
really great user experiences come