Writing is not easy. This is well understood by those who have had the experience of writing for a specific audience. We humans write to convey a specific message to a specific audience. You can write in different styles and tones. It can be written with different goals and motivations. With whatever purpose and whatever style you want to write, you should know that there are rules that must be followed. At the heart of these rules lie various dos and don’ts.
For example, if you want to write a book for children of a certain age group, you should use short and easy words and sentences. If you are writing a scientific article, you should not have any spelling mistakes. Of course, in general, to write anything, even Instagram captions, there should be no spelling mistakes. If you are writing an advertisement, you should be careful not to advertise anything directly and speak indirectly.
Now, if someone wants to tell the user of a site that your request is not possible because some error has occurred, how should he write this? Or, for example, if someone’s task is to design Tooltips, how should they write their text? What do’s and don’ts should be observed to write messages that are shown to users in applications?
The user interface and user experience designer should know the answer to these questions. Because writing all of them as mentioned is the task of the user experience writer or UX Writer. The short texts that guide or advance the user in the site or application are part of the design of that site or application. In fact, it complements its design and cannot and should not be neglected because if they are not written properly and fundamentally, they will ruin both the user interface design, the user experience design, and the product design.
If you want to know what UI Writing is and what are the do’s and don’ts that should be followed, you have found the right content. Continue reading.
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Things not to do in UI Writing
What is ui writing? The user interface designer, in collaboration with the UX team, designs the structure and placement of icons, buttons, spaces, images, messages and responsive design on the site or app. Then it is the turn of the texts that must be written in the necessary places in this structure and places. These texts may be one word or several sentences. These texts are called UI text or UI copy.
Sometimes and in some projects, even an expert writer may be chosen to write these texts. Because these texts, even a single word, are part of the design and part of the product. For this reason, writing them, whoever wants to write them, has dos and don’ts.
The goal of UI design is to visually guide the user through a product’s interface. It’s all about creating an intuitive experience that doesn’t require the user to think too much!
So the goal in UI writing is to help the user and guide him. In general, UI texts should be simple, concise, and clear and serve to increase usability. In the following, we will discuss what these texts should not be.
1. Do not use technical, specialized and special words and terms
Why should it matter to the user what the cause of the error is? Do the users of your site have the expertise to understand the reason? For example, why should the error message on a site be so long and technical?
Keep in mind the knowledge and literacy level of the average users who visit your site and write user interface texts based on that.
2. Do not write vaguely
Remember that the ui text is written so that the user understands what to do or what to modify. Therefore, you should say very clearly and directly what to do or not to do or what to correct. It is not enough to just tell the user that they did not enter the correct date. He should be told what is wrong with the entered date so that the user can easily correct it.
- Do not write too much and in detail
If it is said that the user should be guided and should not be written vaguely, it does not mean that we should come and use a lot of words and sentences and explain the obvious. You have to think and find the shortest and most expressive sentence. For example, if the user is going to fill out a form on the site that has many fields and he forgot to fill some of them, you can send a message to the user with one of the following sentences:
- Please complete the date of birth and graduation date so that the system will allow you to continue.
- Please fill in the blank fields to complete the registration.
- Please fill in the red fields, otherwise you will not be able to complete the process.
- Fill in the red fields and continue.
- The red fields must be filled.
If you were the user, which sentence would be sufficient and clear for you?
4. Do not write numbers in letters
If a number must be written in a message or on a key or an icon, write it as a number. For example, you should write “you will receive the confirmation email within the next 24 hours”, not within the next twenty-four hours… There are different reasons for using figures. One is that it is easier and faster to read and remember. Another is that figures take up less space.
5. Do not use indefinite verbs
Basically, indefinite verbs are a little ambiguous. It is better to use them in a text where the reader can understand who the subject was from the context of the sentence. Short user interface texts are not the place to use indefinite verbs. Think of this sentence being displayed to you in the explanation of a button: When the desired word is written in the box, the search key must be clicked. Which user will feel pleasant reading this sentence?
Of course, the indefinite verb may be the only available option somewhere. For example, a message that wants to tell the user that no results were found for his request on the site: No results were found for your search.
6. Do not use past or future tense
You are writing to guide and help the user to do something on the site or application in the present time. It is better to have all the sentences in the present tense. Of course, it is better to use the imperative verb. (Exactly like when you want to give someone an address.) The good thing about verbs is that in many places they convey the meaning to the user by themselves, such as Submit or Apply.
You can combine the verb with “please” to make it look more polite.
7. Do not use too many punctuation marks
You are not going to write an essay. Finally, you want to say a few sentences for which a full stop is enough. It is true that the user is asked some questions and a question mark is also needed. But exclamation marks and semicolons are not very useful. If you want to use an exclamation point, you must have a good reason. The point here is that you should write short and simple sentences as much as possible.
8. Don’t constantly ask for confirmation from the user
You must have seen a cookbook. After each command, did the author ask you to confirm whether you did it or not? For example, if the order is “at this stage you should add a small amount of salt”; after that it is written “Did you add the salt?” This is exactly what you should not do in the design of the user interface and its texts. You should not constantly show a message to the user whether you are sure that you have done something or not. Of course, for some tasks, a confirmation message may be necessary, a short, concise and useful message.
9. Do not surprise the user
To write any user interface text, you must pay attention to what site or application you are writing for. What is the matter? What are the user’s expectations regarding this site or application? What words, sentences or phrases are usually used in that field that are familiar to the user? As in the design of the elements, the principles and rules of Gestalt should be followed and the natural tendencies of the user should be taken into account. Although writing ui text requires creativity, it is not a place to try new and rare words. Especially when you write the label of the buttons. The user should understand at a glance what that element does on the site or app.
For example, it is easier for the user to see the word tomorrow or today or yesterday rather than dates (8/1/2022).
10. Do not use colloquial or sexist language or jokes
You are not a close friend of the user. You are his guide on the site or app and you want to give him instructions. This is definitely not a place for colloquial language and jokes. Your users have different principles, values and sensitivities. Maybe some people don’t like jokes or colloquial language.
Maybe for some reason the design team decided to use a slang term. However, it is not possible to be sure that all users will like it.