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UX Writing and Content Strategy: What Is the Difference?

Customer experience can make or break the future of an online business. In this world where marketers produce and share tons of content every day, customers are bombarded with marketing messages that heightens their expectations from brands and challenges their loyalty.

That is why creating quality, relevant content on a consistent basis is the biggest challenge faced by content marketers and producers. While content creation is complex and time-consuming, it is something that businesses must do to connect with their target audiences online. Businesses must also contend with Google, who monitors online content quality and provides specific guidelines to ensure that content producers do not try to trick its users into reading something that has no real value.

To ensure a positive customer experience with a brand or digital product and to comply with Google’s recommendations, content creators employ a wide range of content writing techniques. One comparably recent type is UX (User Experience) writing, an approach to customer-centered writing that aims to help users reach their goals in an efficient way.

In this article, we explore how UX writing compares to content strategy. Since many are confused a bit about how UX writing fits in with content strategy, we compare the two fields and see how your business can use both of them to build an online presence and improve customer experience with digital products.

Content Strategy

Let’s begin by defining content strategy.

Content strategy is the framework that guides the creation, distribution, and management of actionable content that helps achieve a specific business objective.

Content strategy provides the vision that guides the development of content according to a specific business goal. This strategy should be clearly defined and documented, outlining how and when a business produces content (such as articles, infographics, and videos), shares it, and measures its success. This ensures consistency and helps to maintain the interest of online audiences.

The presence of a documented content marketing strategy is a strong predictor for success. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 59% of the most successful B2C marketers have a documented strategy in place, while only 18% of the least successful can say the same.

The surveys of B2B marketers support this claim as well. Only 16% of the least successful of them have a documented content strategy compared to 62% of the most successful ones.

Let’s consider a simple example of content strategy at work.

Danish homeware retailer Jysk follows a typical content strategy for lead nurturing through content marketing (in this case, distributing blog posts to email subscribers):

  • Educate subscribers on interior decor and the benefits of using specific design techniques.
  • Guide subscribers toward choosing Jysk products that provide those benefits.

Their blog post “Bathroom Makeover Ideas” (Figure 1) educates subscribers by sharing simple and affordable ideas for bathroom decor. The writer did not use a lot of links to product pages as the post is primarily for education.

Screenshot of Jysk blog post with information on "budget bathroom makeover ideas" and "small details make a huge difference."

Figure 1. Screenshot of Jysk blog post “Bathroom Makeover Ideas” (Credit: Jysk).

The post “Affordable Living Room Furniture for 2018,” however, promotes the brand’s products by linking appropriate keywords to product pages. Figure 2 shows highlighted links that point to product pages.

Specific words are highlighted to show that they are links to product pages. For example, "table and chairs" and "lightweight sofas" are highlighted links.

Figure 2. Screenshot of blog post “Affordable Living Room Furniture” (Credit: Jysk).

In this strategy, readers are introduced to general educational articles that seek to build the reputation of the brand as a source of reliable interior design advice. Jysk then guides readers to its products with posts like what is shown in Figure 2.

To make sure that the progress can be measured, content specialists can also define the following goals to be able to analyze the results of these efforts. For example, the goals for a strategy like Jysk’s could be the following:

  • Increase website traffic by 20% in 3 months.
  • Send out 2 emails to each lead weekly.

As you can see, having a strategy provides the direction needed to help content creators to develop content that focuses on conversion and contributes to the business goals.

The features of a content strategy can be summarized as follows:

  • It requires businesses to study their target audience to create relevant content. The content that Jysk sends out, for example, is relevant to subscribers because they agreed to receive “design inspiration and offers” from the brand. This is typically done with detailed content personas.
  • It identifies the types of content as well as distribution channels.
  • It defines the frequency of sharing content with an editorial calendar, also referred to as a “content calendar.”
  • It uses specific KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure how well the content achieves its goals. These metrics include clicks, leads, sales, and so on.

Now that we have covered content strategy, let’s focus on UX writing.

UX Writing

UX writing has recently emerged as a distinct content writing area and can be defined as the practice of creating user interface (UI) copy that helps users easily interact with a digital product (a website, an app, an online tool, etc.).

Before UX writing started to be recognized as its own field, creating copy for a UI was almost an afterthought for many digital product teams. It was often done by developers who had a good idea of how the product worked.

However, developers are not always the best people to write the UI copy, even if they created that product. Many developers are familiar with technical vocabulary and may choose to write unnecessarily complex language. No digital product will get a lot of users if its UI copy reads like instructions from Windows 98.

UX writing can fix this problem by making sure that digital product copy focuses on users to make it easy for them to get started. Here is what UX writers do to achieve this goal:

  • Research the user. You cannot write a user-focused copy without knowing the user. That is why UX writers conduct research to determine the needs, expectations, and issues that the target users of a product might have.
  • Collaborate with developers. The people who created a digital product are a great source of information. UX writers interact with developers, designers, analysts, marketers, and other professionals who were involved in the creation to have a good understanding of the product.
  • Write clearly. The most important rule is to make everything as understandable as possible to the target user. This means making UI copy intuitive and user-friendly.

Let’s examine an interesting example.

This product is a useful online tool called The Flavour Generator, offered by Hello Fresh, a UK-based meal kit service. The tool provides dinner recipes based on the flavor and cuisine preferences of the user.

As shown in the screenshot in Figure 3, the UX writer created copy that is easy to read and understand. The writer has used the language and style that the target audience of Hello Fresh uses in everyday life, which is a good technique to make the tool more user-friendly and intuitive.

Screenshot of The Flavour Generator: The inputs displayed are "I like *Italian Food* and today I fancy something *Spicy* (from options Spicy, Sweet, Tangy, Herby, and I’ve never tried)."

Figure 3. Screenshot of The Flavour Generator by Hello Fresh (Credit: Hello Fresh).

The copy also conveys the personality of the brand by using phrases like “And today I fancy something ….” This informal microcopy reflects the human side of the tool and helps it stand out from competitors. Microcopy like this can make even the most boring task memorable and fun.

Other aspects of the user experience that UX writing can help with include the following:

  • Reducing unnecessary complexity. No one wants to use an overly complicated app or online tool, right? That is why web developers and UX writers work together to ensure that they produce a user-friendly interface.
  • Aligning the product with business values. Many customers are more willing to do business with companies they feel some emotional connection with. In fact, 60% of millennials prefer to buy products that are an expression of their personality. Good UX writing can ensure that a digital product emphasizes the values and the mission of a business, therefore increasing the chances that the users will connect with it.

At this point, we have a good understanding of what content strategy and UX writing are, so let’s identify the differences between them.

UX Writing and Content Strategy: Feature Comparison

  UX Writing Content Strategy
Purpose To help users understand how to use a digital product (website, app, etc.) in an easy and user-friendly way To guide the process of development, planning, production, distribution, and management of content to reach business goals
Use areas UI areas such as menus, 404 messages, landing pages, emails, conversational and voice interfaces of digital products, notifications, settings, and tooltips Blog posts, reports, white papers, social media posts, chatbots, marketing videos, marketing emails, and podcasts
Content creators UX writers Copywriters, content strategists
Orientation Product Business goals (sales, leads, conversions, etc.)
Collaboration UX writers need to collaborate with product teams to get a good understanding of the product. Content strategists can execute and monitor the implementation of the plan alone.

Make UX Writing a Part of Content Strategy

As the comparison shows, the two fields have differences but they ultimately work toward the same business goals. UX writing can provide a major boost to content efforts by making every ordinary interaction an engaging one which increases the opportunities to foster brand engagement and loyalty.

That is why many companies include UX writing as a part of their overall content strategy, ensuring that the digital products support business goals. This combination of content strategy and UX writing can be an excellent approach to improve your business’ bottom line as well.

Now that we know what UX writing and content strategy are all about, we can confidently say that you should make use of both, together. In the era of customer-centeredness, online businesses must make sure that the user experience delivered by their digital products is positive and has an effect on customer loyalty and engagement. That is why taking advantage of UX writing as a part of a content strategy is without a doubt the best way to go.