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Picture: 123RF/ra2studio
Picture: 123RF/ra2studio

Building a digital team continues to be a challenge for most companies, which remain stuck in a traditional, analogue mindset. Job descriptions that include terms like “user experience” or “conversation designer” are largely foreign to sales, marketing and, indeed, HR teams, which are used to more conventional descriptions. But the world is changing, jobs are evolving, and the needs and the titles that go along with them need to shift too.

Content experts are hot property for companies looking to move effectively into the digital space, but not many understand what kind of expert they need to meet their specific needs. There’s plenty of confusion, specifically around a user experience (UX) writer, a digital copywriter and a conversation designer.

A UX writer’s role is to understand the pain points that consumers experience in navigating a company’s digital platforms and to help smooth those out to avoid confusion and frustration. Digital platforms should be designed for a positive, enjoyable experience and it’s the role of a UX writer to arrange an array of confusing products, stakeholder agendas and nuances into a clear and coherent stream (user journey) that keeps visitors to the platform engaged – and pushes them down the sales funnel. 

A good UX writer has empathy and an understanding of how people think, in order to help explain a company’s digital offering as simply as possible. That helps them speak to people in a way that is conversational and draws them in, rather than marketing to them or bombarding them with bewildering terminology. But the UX writer also need to balance that with the business needs and understand how to put across unique selling propositions – which is why great UX writers are unicorns.

Everything in UX is data-driven and based on research. It needs to start with studying users’ experiences on a company’s existing website and taking note of the things that derail them along the way. Once the problems have been identified, the UX team can report back to the company on what needs to be done to simplify the experience for users. That may require some restructuring of the path people follow or the way they navigate the page. Once that has been decided, the UX writer can review the content and help use their mastery of words to solve for those pain points.

A conversation designer also plays in the language space, and is a conduit for making digital platforms easier to use and understand. However, they work more in the world of mapping out the conversations that digital virtual assistants, such as chatbots, can manage when interacting with users. You’ll know good conversation design when you see it – it’ll feel like you’re speaking to a human being, rather than to a bot that’s been fed a thesaurus and sent out into the world.

The key to effective chatbot conversation is understanding the line between being approachable and helpful and being “chummy” – or sounding like a tin man. Good conversation design manages a flow of conversation with natural language – within the constraints of the brand identity, but with a human edge. Chatbots aren’t cheap, so businesses need to see good return on investment – and having them communicate effectively is key to success. To get it right, it also needs to be backed up by good UX research and design practice.

While UX writing is largely about guiding people through the sales funnel, digital copywriting is about getting them to the top of it. It’s the “big idea”, the campaign and fun creative writing that draws people in and gets them inspired by a product or service. It’s the fun part of the digital journey – without the constraints of managing the user flow but rather telling stories, being engaging and getting people excited.

Any of these three roles are often best fulfilled by outsourced resources. The perspective delivered by someone from outside the business can be invaluable in providing a great experience for visitors to any digital platform. By working closely with the business, they can gain an understanding of the requirements and what constitutes “digital success” and then approach the process with the fresh perspective of a user. It’s a two-way street – the consultant can learn about the business, but the business also needs to be prepared to listen to the research and the resulting suggestions, so that they can be effective. Users have matured in terms of how they interact with digital platforms  and it’s time companies did the same.

Tessa-Kate Davel is a UX writer for Strider.

The big take-out: Users have matured in terms of how they interact with digital platforms – it’s time companies did the same.

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