Why UX writers need to be chameleons

As UX writing continues to grow, we hear from Foolproof’s Jennifer Thompson about whether long-form ever works when writing for an interface, how UX writers can satisfy accessibility criteria, and how language feeds into dark UX

When you think about how brands historically showed up in front of customers, your mind would probably go to the print, TV and radio ads filled with bold slogans and catchy one-liners conjured up by advertising agencies. But everything changed when the world shifted from print to digital, according to Jennifer Thompson, principal UX writer at Foolproof – an agency that works across digital product and service design for clients including TfL, Suzuki, and Sony PlayStation.

When that transition happened, she feels that, for a time, “the content side of it lost its way. I think it wasn’t really defined and no-one really knew what skills were required.” Fast forward to today, it seems brands are rediscovering the joy and creativity in language and tone, and a key – if somewhat hidden – part of that ecosystem is UX (user experience) writing.

Hidden to some, at least. People using apps, websites and other digital interfaces might overlook a lot of the language, and Thompson herself says that the best UX writing often goes “unnoticed”. But in the worlds of design, content, and digital products, UX writing has become big business. Recent layoffs in the tech sector caused concern about the UX design bubble bursting, however the UX Design Institute said that it expects the growth of UX writing to continue, and LinkedIn listed content designer (which overlaps with UX writing) as one of the most in-demand jobs in 2022.

“It definitely feels like it’s in vogue at the minute,” says Thompson. “I think big brands that are doing it well have given it a lot of airtime.” She believes her field owes a lot to the likes of Monzo, Mailchimp, and Bulb, which have successfully woven their personality-driven brand voice into all of the places they show up.