Writing is fundamental – especially in your apps and games, the right words can have a huge impact on your experience. During WWDC23, Apple’s UX writing team hosted a wide-ranging Q&A that covered everything from technical concepts to inspiring content to what apps should “behave” for. Here are some highlights and resources from the discussion to help you further explore Text for User Interfaces.
My app has a lot of text. What’s the best way to make copy easy to read?
Ask yourself: What am I trying to achieve with my writing? After you answer that, you can start addressing the text itself. First, break your paragraphs into individual sentences. Then go back and make each sentence as short and punchy as possible. To go even further, you can start each sentence the same way – just with a verb – or add section headers to break up the copy. Or to put it another way:
Break your paragraphs into individual sentences.
Make each sentence as short and punchy as possible.
Start each sentence the same way – just with a verb.
Consider other options as well. Sometimes it might be better to get your point across in a video or animation. You can also save a short answer first and expand on it elsewhere. That way, you’re helping people who are new to your app while offering a richer option for those who want to dive a little deeper.
What advice do you have for explaining technical concepts in simple terms?
First, remember that not everyone will have your level of understanding. Sometimes we get so excited about the technical details that we forget about the people who might be using the app for the first time.
Try explaining the idea to a friend or colleague first – or ask an engineer to give you a quick summary of a feature.
Then, break your idea down into smaller parts and delete anything that isn’t important. Technical concepts can feel more intimidating when they arrive in a large text section. Can you link to the support page? Do people want that information at this point? Providing a little information is always a good first step.
How can I use the concept of “more is more” without confusing people?
Transparency should always be a priority. The trick is to make something as long as it needs to be, but as short as possible. Start by writing everything down – and then put it away for a few days. When you come back to it, you’ll have a clear view of what can be cut.
One more tip: look for clusters of acronyms – these often offer opportunities to narrow things down.
How should I think about writing my onboarding?
Naturally, this will depend on your app or game – you need to figure out what’s important and right for you. But typically, brevity is key when it comes to writing — especially in the beginning, when people are trying to get into the experience.
Consider providing a brief description of the top-level features so people know why they should use your app and what to expect when they do. Also think about how you got there. What text did you see before opening your app? What article appeared on the app store? All this contributes to the whole journey.
Human Interface Guidelines: Onboarding
Should UX writing have a personal tone? Or does this make the environment too difficult?
When establishing your voice and tone, you should definitely consider adding personality elements to achieve that elusive element of ‘character’. But you are right to think about how your strings are interpreted. Ideally, you’ll work with your translation partners for this. Focus on phrases that strike the tone you want without resorting to idiomatic expressions. And remember that a little goes a long way.
How should I approach writing inclusively, especially when it comes to conveying gender?
This is an incredibly important part for everyone. Consider whether gender is important to the experience you’re creating. If gender is important, it’s useful to offer a full set of options – as well as an option to decline the request. Many things can be written without mentioning gender and thus are more inclusive. You can also consider using glyphs. SF symbols offer many inclusive options. And you can find more guidance on writing in the Human Interface Guidelines.
Human interface guidelines: inclusion
What are some best practices for writing helpful notices?
First, keep in mind that notifications can feel intermittent by nature, and people receive many throughout the day. Before writing a notice, ask yourself the following questions:
- Should the message be sent now?
- Does the message save someone from opening your app?
- Does the message convey something you didn’t explain?
If you answered yes to all of the above, learn more about notification best practices in the Human Interface Guidelines.
Human Interface Guidelines: Notifications
Can you provide guidance on writing the TipKit framework?
With TipKit — which displays tips to help people discover features in your app — brevity is key. Use tips to highlight a new feature in your app, help people discover a hidden feature, or show quick ways to perform a task. Keep your tips to one idea and be as specific as possible about the function or behavior you are looking for.
What is one piece of advice you have for writers to improve their content?
One way to find the perfect (or perfect) sentence is to show it to other people, including other writers, designers, and creative partners. If you don’t have that option, have your script run by someone else working on your app or even a client. And you can always read it out loud to yourself – it’s an invaluable way to make your text conversational, and a great way to find and cut unnecessary words.