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UX Writing as a Design Tool

I'm currently working through an MFA in Creative Writing, and a big focus is about how writing can help the community.

Obviously the power of stories has been talked to death. Writing has the power to help people escape, to make them feel connected, to show them a different way of thinking. But the process of writing, and its role in the community, is often overlooked.

Writing is becoming a more common tool in therapeutic and assistive sectors. We've come to realise that the act of writing has healing properties; it helps the person holding the pen make connections within their mind, discover what they think, and bring emotions up to the surface. Many writers now hold workshops to demystify the art.

Writing helps us figure out what we think.

What does this have to do with UX Writing?

Well, everything, really. While UX Writing isn't creative writing, it isn't as far removed as you might think. It requires creative thinking in order to solve problems, and is best done by people who know how to tackle something from different perspectives.

When I'm stuck on a flow, I use writing as a way to figure out what I'm thinking and what's actually going on. Usually, I'll write out the answers to questions like:

What is the user trying to accomplish on this screen?

While user journey is often a meaningless buzzword, writing out where the user's coming from and where they're going can help to wrap my head around what needs to be communicated here and now.

Why am I struggling?

Sometimes problems aren't clear until they're specifically defined. Is it hard to come up with good copy because the design is off? Am I in the right headspace for this? Is this the right place for the messaging? What questions do I have that haven't been answered? Do I have the same mental modal as the user?

What am I trying to communicate?

Okay, yeah, this one's pretty obvious. But here, I'm not trying to write it in a good way: I'm trying to get the garbage out on the floor so I can sort through it. I'll write everything down because it will be easier to sort and cross out on paper (or screen) than in my head. As many have said before, you can't edit a blank page.

Um, duh?

Yeah, there's nothing mind-blowing here. Obviously we should be asking ourselves questions when writing and designing. But setting aside time for it as a part of your process can prevent that "stuck feeling," and help identify problems before they become blockers.

I also bring it up because UX Writers aren't the only ones who can use this trick. Designers, PMs, and anyone else who works in product development can benefit from taking a minute to breathe, write, and sort their thoughts. It helps. Promise.


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