The hidden skills of a designer.
Visual designers will early learn that reading the copy is necessary to be able to design. After all, our job is to help customers to communicate whatever should be communicated and not to be mistaken with just making it look beautiful. There for, designers read a lot of copy.
The deed is to emphasise the core message, with the help of images, headline, text, illustration, animation, etc. And in the digital age, we also consider best practises for above the fold, the call to action and hazard free main interactions. Our job is about emphasising a core message.
We all know that texts are, non arguable, a great design elements for communication, it is very direct, claire and unavoidable. To be more flexible while working with texts, all designers will at some point start to rewrite headlines, add headlines and organising text to favour typography, reading patterns and scanning patterns. Working with texts are part of our job.
The upside, the downside and how to solve the problem
Texts are as all other design element in an user interface a highly iterative subject. Apart from what’s mentioned above, texts also need to be adapted for the constrains of the UI such as limited space, different screen sizes and localisation issue. Above all, the reviewing process actually involves several stakeholders; we have the client (product owner, copy writer, marketing dep, legal dep, customer service), the developer who implements the texts as well as the tester who test the stability. Therefor, when a designer can make fast texts alternation, that’s great advantage.
But, although our hidden skills, it is not that easy to communicate well due to the limited space. Another thought is what tone to use, how funny should we be, this is not always certain. And the lack of a diploma and proper grammar skills might harm the confidence and authority to say: oh yes, this is real good. After all, a designer is not a copy writer.
Luckily, practise makes perfect, and this applies to all fields, isn’t our world beautiful. There are also many online references on how to write for User interfaces.
Check Google Ventures 5 Rules for writing great interface copy. When reading the paragraph about “Personality doesn’t matter as much as you think” in this article, my thought travels to this youtube video with John Snow, and I started to imagine a lot of people talking like him in a customer meeting … try this, it is hilarious :)
There is one more tool to use, we should not forget about User testing since it is the key to success when it comes to user experience. Test if user wants to read it, if they understand it and if they do what we want them to is a good start. By doing this, we will also realise that users do read texts. They read when the texts are served to them in a delicate way and if they need the information to facilitate their life.
So…Should a designer be the one writing the copy?
Yes! if we are experienced enough, follow best practises and do proper user testing. Even better if we could cooperate with a real copy writer of course.