Frequently Asked Questions
These common questions and their short answers are taken from Michael J. Metts and Andy Welfle’s book Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.
- What do you mean by “writing is designing?”
Just that. In many product teams, the words are an afterthought, and come after the “design,” or the visual and experiential system. It shouldn’t be like that: the writer should be creating words as the rest of the experience is developed. They should be iterative, validated with research, and highly collaborative. Writing is part of the design process, and writers are designers. That’s the main thesis of this book (which you’ll read in Chapter 1), and the point that we try to drive home in every chapter.
- Is this book written only for writers?
No. Even if you only do this type of writing occasionally, you’ll learn from this book. If you’re a designer, product manager, developer, or anyone else who writes for your users, you’ll benefit from it. This book will also help people who manage or collaborate with writers, since you’ll get to see what goes into this type of writing, and how it fits into the product design and development process. However, if writing is your main responsibility and you’re looking for ways to collaborate with your team, you’ll find those ideas in Chapter 8.
- Will you teach me how to write error messages?
Yes indeed! We cover error messages and stress cases in Chapter 4. This isn’t a how-to book, though—we talk about how to approach the work, how to think about it strategically, and how to set yourself up for success so you can jump in and do the writing.
- What’s the difference between voice and tone?
They’re highly interrelated, but very different! “Voice” (Chapter 6) is the set of constant attributes in your writing that sets expectations, mood, and a relationship with your user. It’s your product’s personality. “Tone” (Chapter 7) shifts, depending on context: For example, you might write with a motivational tone if your users were new to your product, or with a supportive tone if they were frustrated. This book has strategies and approaches to developing those tone profiles and when to deploy them.