Best Practices for UX Writing in e-Commerce

UX has been around since the early 1990s, and had we spared a little more attention to the content side of it – UX Writing – earlier, we would have surely spared some major headaches to our poor users. UX Writing is both a science and an art, and a lot more valuable to your business than you might think, especially if your marketplace is fully online.

UX writing can be defined as the writing of clear messages and feedback for all the touchpoints throughout the user journey on the interface. There are countless scenarios where great UX writing makes all the difference; one third of online shoppers feel misinformed and leave websites without buying anything (Digital Marketing Institute), and requesting for too much personal information also causes a negative impact: Expedia bumped up their income by $12M by just revising a particular form on their website and making the decision to remove one of the fields required.

More than just sweet talk

When it comes to e-Commerce, how you word your website’s messaging determines whether the users successfully reach the checkout and pay or just get frustrated and end up going to your competitors’ websites. Good UX writing in this scenario addresses the need of the users to:

  1. Be aware where they are on the website 
  2. Understand all the information shown
  3. Understand where they need to go and feel confident taking the next step

UX Writing is both a science and an art, and a lot more valuable to your business than you might think, especially if your marketplace is fully online.

The design could win awards for its beauty, but if your message is not reaching your prospective customers, that is a flaw which cannot be overlooked. 

Furthermore, UX writing is not just about giving the right information with the right words: it is also very much about timing. To give an extreme example: it would be very frustrating to inform users that the dress size for that perfect pair of skinny jeans is not available just when they press the checkout button, all set to pay. Realistic examples include informing users that there is an ‘error’ in some 20-fields long form they filled without specifying which field is wrong and why, or having a Log In page with the following error message: ‘Your Username or Password is Wrong’. There are only two fields, therefore that message is only insulting the user’s basic intelligence; what the user might not be realising is that she typed the password with Caps Lock on.

As you can see, giants like Twitter, Spotify and Facebook still did not address this issue at the time the screens were copied. Twitter is also informing the user that the password is wrong too, even though there was no password given! Source:
No idea what to do when I finish this form – somehow they managed to put all the buttons in the wrong places! Source:
This form is ideal, providing validation and assistance through messaging and visual cues (!) throughout the way. Source:

It is all about your users…

In all instances and not just e-Commerce, it is essential to revolve your UX writing around the personas associated with your product or service. Asking the right questions might take a big chunk of your research time, but those answers are key to effective UX content. The information gathered should provide insight into what the users know, what they need, what they are looking for and their expectations, what is frustrating for them (pain points), the device they are using, where they are coming from and the step they would expect to be doing next. For each page of your e-Commerce website, it should be clear what the user’s options are and the actions to be carried out and the content needs to be tailored to cater for that. 

Another e-Commerce need that can be fulfilled through UX Writing – especially for products newly launched to the market – is the need to instil trust in users as they are browsing through your website. Scams are nothing new and today’s online buyers are a lot more aware of what they are looking at, making them more susceptible to doubt and feelings of mistrust.

In all instances and not just e-Commerce, it is essential to revolve your UX writing around the personas associated with your product or service.

We all know that those who read whole articles are few and far in between, therefore make sure that your website is super easy to scannable and not difficult to read:

  • Make headers stand out with words that immediately capture interest and do not skimp on paragraph and line spacing. 
  • As a rule of thumb, keep headers to a maximum of 6 words and body text to 10 words per line. If you have any illegible content, fix it or delete it.
  • Information hierarchy is also essential for reader to pick up the important pieces from the whole page, and that is where bullets and other formatting comes in handy, following the F pattern that the majority of users follow on pages. 

Keep accessibility in mind by choosing high contrast colours and checking your website’s readability level using online tools such as

Bittersweet memories of university lecture slides? No wonder you might have wanted to staple your eyes shut during that lecture – the contrast is a strict FAIL. Source:
  • Keep your audience in mind while writing, so that the terminology you use is suitable for the users reading it and that the descriptions are not solely focused on SEO wins but on the people who – unlike search engines – will actually buy your product. 
  • If your website caters for multiple languages, try your wording in all those languages and make sure the design caters for them as well. Be the first to know is Puoi essere il primo a saperlo, which is quite longer. That was a very simple example – the true challenge lies when dealing with languages such as Arabic, reversing the whole dynamic of how the typical user scans content.
  • Be with your customers, ALL the way. Remove any concerns and explain – simply. Doubting customers don’t get to checkout; they might throw a few items on the wishlist or in the bag, but struggle to complete the order. Some companies such as Mailchimp also have their mascot which acts as the go-to character for the user in need.
Spotify clearly explains what is going to happen when clicking the Confirm Payment CTA button, which is reassuring to the user. Source:
Suffering from cart abandonment? The right UX writing might just do the trick… Source:
…and sometimes a little humour goes a long way too. Source:

… and pushing the right Call to Action

One item stands apart in terms of importance from all the other items that we mentioned that fall under the umbrella of UX writing: Call to Actions (CTAs). These make or break your website, as the tone and wording used will either guide and encourage the user to take action (buy the product, subscribe to your newsletter) or confuse and annoy the user enough to close the prompt or scroll further and move on. There are multiple ways to engage users through thoughtful call to actions: think of what kind of benefits the action offers to the reader and highlight the most important one. 

If the website is showcasing a great sale, then urgency is key, then – as an example – the wording: Get Yours Before They Sell Out would be more effective than a simple Buy Now. If you wish to push newsletter subscriptions for a blog about the latest fashion trends following big brands or famous individuals, it would be better to opt for “Be the First to Know” rather than having a boring “Subscribe Here” wording for your CTA button. 

Neil Patel on CTAs –  watch this 2-minute video to get more details regarding best CTA practices

It goes without saying that context and button shape, colour, size and placement also have an effect on how your users will react, and even though you might be religiously following best practices, A/B testing (when possible) is the only way you get to know for sure which is the best decision.

The conclusion is something we have heard since forever: clear communication is key. And that is why a UX writer could make all the difference in a company. If employing one is simply not on the table, at least avoid this one mistake: leaving the copy in the hands of the developers. Proper, empathic messaging  just isn’t as high on their priority list as, say, coding your website to work perfectly. This means ending with your system flashing one too many System error (code #8970) error messages and unless you love making your users suffer – please think again.