How to Enhance Collaboration between UX Designers and Writers?

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My attendance at the Women in Tech Conference in Warsaw a couple of weeks ago was very rewarding. Besides meeting amazing women in different IT roles from all over the world, I had the chance to dig deeper into the world of UX Writing.

Since I came back to the office I have been researching on new ways to improve the collaboration between the documentation and UX design teams. More specifically, I’d like to bring forward the writing involved in the product design and work closer with the UX designers to create a seamless user experience. Collaboration sparks creativity, which is my driving force.

Until now, as a technical writer (and copywriter), I’ve only been involved in the UI design at the very end of the process, right before the coding starts. Sometimes, we get a draft of the copy from the product owners, and we review the text and suggest improvements. In the most critical cases, we receive information about the issue that needs to be addressed and submit different content proposals to interact with the users. We also review and change the system and error messages directly in the code, to make sure they are consistent, comply with the standards and convey the right message. The teams still work in silos, and this has a great impact on the outcome of the design process. I’d like to rethink our current approach.

I have been reading a lot of articles about how to enhance this collaboration, and one point that always comes up is to get early into the project.

Bringing forward the writing has many benefits: all the actors involved are on the same page, you get to understand the users’ needs better and usually, if the premises are clear, a lot of time (=money) can be saved. Of course, if the copy is defined first, creativity is boosted, since writers are not limited by space or design constraints.

Copy also supports the design process. A content-first approach starts with the definition of the requirements and user journey: what are the needs, which problems will be solved and how. When the requirements are clear and the copy is defined, the designers can think of a way to frame the message and structure the information on the UI with the appropriate elements. Getting rid of the Lorem Ipsum can help designers define and distribute the elements in a more sensible way. Since they know exactly which information is displayed, they ”just” need to think of the how.

Changing the way you work is never a doddle. However, as it happens with every big change, breaking it down into small steps makes it manageable. After meeting with the UX designer assigned to my team, we’ve agreed on the following:

  • DOCs and UX will have more sync meetings to create synergies when defining the user experience.
  • The copy will be defined as soon as the feature requirements are clear (we’ll create specific tasks for this)
  • We’ll try out different tools (like Sketch) that allow online collaboration between UX and DOCs.
  • We’ll start working with the tool of our choice after the research phase.

I’m sure we’ll all benefit from these changes and this will reflect on the quality of our software.

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