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The Problem with Daily UX Writing Challenges

For those just entering the UX space, a common way of practicing is to complete daily "writing challenges." These usually consist of a one or two sentence explanation of the problem, followed by a character limit for the message.


An example could be something along the lines of, “Write a message for the user to let them know that their pizza is being delivered, in 45 characters or less.”

While these sorts of exercises can be helpful, they often send new writers the wrong message.


Problem #1: Experiences aren’t one screen.


Users go through a flow. A journey. They rarely only see one screen. When writing anything for UI, it’s important to know what the user has been trying to do, what information they’ve already seen, etc. It’s impossible to write a good message without understanding the context. We should be teaching junior writers the right questions to ask, not telling them to figure it out with minimal information.


Problem #2: Character limits are fake news.


Look, sometimes space really is limited. However, these sorts of challenges make it seem like it will be the main challenge for writers. Remember when you were a kid and you thought that quicksand was going to be a way bigger problem than it turned out to be? Same principle.


It’s great to make writers think about keeping their copy short, especially since a lot of people who are just starting out try to cram as much information as possible into the space. But being short isn’t the main goal; it’s about clarity.


Problem #3: Writers don’t work alone.


This is heavily related to problem #1, but let’s expand on teamwork for a bit. As much as people seem to think writing is an introvert’s dream, it’s not. We work with designers, PMs, developers, QA testers, users, translators, etc., etc., etc.


Writers should never write a word of text without partnering with a stakeholder. It just doesn’t work like that.


However…


Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think that these challenges should be completely abandoned. They can be a great way refine tone, or to think about how the user is feeling in a certain moment.


The problems come along when new writers use these as their only practice. It should be used as a tool, not a shortcut. So what can you do instead?


First, work on a larger project. Even if you don’t have “real” experience, rewrite a flow from an existing project, not just one screen.


Also think about who you’d need to contact to get the information needed to successfully write your copy. What would you ask the developer? The designer?


And finally: be patient with yourself. Some of that experience won’t kick in until you’re part of an actual team, and that’s okay. As long as you’re thinking about the experience beyond character limits and single screens, you’ll be fine.

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