Why pay a UX Writer?
Series of articles on UX design at sum.cumo
Although everybody is talking about user experience (UX), somehow it still often gets left out of the mix. At sum.cumo, we’re working to prevent just that. And we’re succeeding.
In this series of articles, we aim to familiarize you with UX design at sum.cumo and show you why it has become an indispensible area of expertise within our company. We will present you with a number of examples to illustrate our way of thinking and working toward making UX design more and more relevant to users, customers and coworkers.
So, why should anyone bring a UX writer on board? And why is it important to explore the true value of UX writing? Because it’s more than just about making things “easier to read”. UX writers constantly emphasize the importance of having clear and simple language in the right places, so website users can find what they’re looking for, end up clicking a key button, and thereby generate revenue. The added value of doing so can be demonstrated far more objectively and compellingly by having access to the right data. So far, so good.
“So, what do you do?”
While on a trip once, an old-school salesman asked me: “So, what do you do?” I told him that I write clear, easily understood copy for software. The long and insightful conversation that followed ultimately led me to look into the return on investment (ROI) of UX writing. My counterpart couldn't quite believe that in the United States six-figure salaries are sometimes paid to people to fill a website with just the right words – and as few of them as possible. There’s more to it than that, of course, but the thought led me to begin my research. Why should anyone bring a UX writer on board? What exactly is the quantifiable added value in doing so?
sum.cumo is a technology company based in Hamburg, Germany. Since early 2018, it has employed a full-time UX writer whose primary job is to write microcopy for software products. That person is me. At sum.cumo, we digitize insurance policies that require as much explanation as you might imagine. User comprehension is the linchpin of what we do. So, we employ usability tests and web analytics, and develop KPIs that are similar to business KPIs.
While formats like our User Feedback Day don't yet allow us to quantify ROI, they do let us know whether our work is taking us in the right direction. We therefore employ this type of user research for exploration and validation purposes.
In the course of a User Feedback Day, we compile about 20 recommendations for action that have direct implications for UX writing. When users are aiming to take out insurance online, it becomes very clear what matters to them:
Feeling well-oriented and assured
Having fears alleviated
Making their own decisions
Getting proper guidance
What’s the added value?
The mere fact that users have to read and understand what they are supposed to do on a website makes UX writing relevant. After all, someone has to think up write down the copy they will read. The work of a UX writer becomes even more relevant if the copy being written is based on empirical evidence (usually in the form of user research).Armed with the right set of metrics and an evident ROI offered by UX writing, it’s possible to demonstrate the value of this area of expertise to management.
The task of calculating ROI
Strictly speaking, ROI is a financial figure that quantifies how successfully a project has performed in relation to its investment. So, how can we calculate ROI in this case? Kinneret Yifrah proposes this simple equation:
higher user activity = more users performing actions = higher sales
The second part of this equation clearly indicates that we are technologically able to quantify the increase in users performing actions.
We need to quantify it!
Web analytics allows us to identify where microcopy can help solve technical difficulties. These figures can then serve as a basis for calculating an ROI. There is, of course, a practically endless number of metrics available, but we want to focus on those that are related to UX writing.
- At which points on the way to conversion do users leave the website? What can be done to prevent this?
We can improve the wording at these weak points!
User error rate
- Which input fields do users fill in incorrectly particularly often? What can be done to prevent this?
We can improve the description of problematic input fields and offer assistance!
- This tool enables us to track each user’s path from one page to the next. What can we do here?
We can optimize the wording of buttons, links and navigation-related copy.
Task completion rate
- Which elements are helping users and which are distracting them? What can we do here?
We can adapt the wording of (secondary) links, tooltips and buttons to users’ expectations.
Task completion time
- How quickly or slowly are users reaching their objectives on the website? What can we do here?
We can provide them with enough information, but not too much.
Linkage to business data
To link these figures to business figures, it’s helpful to use this sample calculation.
Although we have not yet entered any real-world data for sales, support costs, etc. into this equation, it clearly demonstrates the relevance of UX writing to the insurance industry – and it reinforces the importance of ROI as an indicator.
Now, let’s look at this second calculation, this time employing realistic data.
We thus enter the cycle of BUILD - MEASURE - LEARN and are able to increasingly align our ideas, products and data with it (source: Sparta Science).
The task of calculating ROI can be very challenging, as it requires taking so many factors into account. In the course of pursuing it, however, we’ve learned some very valuable lessons, which we’ve divided into three groups:
- It’s a long process
- The key thing is to get started
- We’re far from completing the task
- Begin with user testing
- Data matters. Make everything quantifiable
- Employ analytics
- Project management is important with respect to business data
- Never consider ROI in isolation.
- Calculating ROI is a team effort.
Conclusion: Why do all this?
For oneself, one’s company and one’s customers, this approach can provide a point of reference for quantifying the value of UX writing. Last but not least, it can be linked to personal motivation, as well as project success or failure. After all, an ROI can turn out to be negative. Perhaps the wrong topics were dealt with or the effort and expenditure was too great. However, even in this case, your findings will be well-founded and data-driven rather than simply based on a gut feeling.
The previously released parts of our UX series: