We rarely talk about writing as a design skill.
Yet, many of our daily interactions with technology are becoming less visual, which means different skills are needed to craft experiences that are memorable and personal. I believe writing is one of these key skills. Great writing can help us craft effective content, think through complex scenarios, and communicate our ideas with clarity and impact.
Great writing produces effective content
Effective content guides users effortlessly through each interaction, helping them get things done in the simplest way possible. Great writing ensures content is informative, well-structured, and easy to understand. It means that words are chosen carefully so that it’s understood by the widest possible audience. It means that content is logical, and therefore easy to scan. And it predicts the questions that people might ask, addressing them with clarity and certainty.
People hire your product to get things done, and effective content helps them navigate to their goals with certainty.
Beyond the mechanics of language, great writing crafts a tone and style that is memorable and personal. It creates a feeling that gives your product spirit and personality.
Great writing helps us imagine future scenarios
Design is not just how something looks, but it how it functions in a variety of probable scenarios. Writing enables us to explore these scenarios over time, and for different people.
Through writing, we explore different points of view, which helps us understand what our customers want, what’s getting in their way, and how we can help. Writing enables us to create a more complete picture of what their lives might be like.
At times, design is a conceptual practice, and writing helps us make sense of the complexity. It helps us frame (and reframe) issues, deconstruct obstacles, and tease out patterns in the chaos.
Sketching is another fantastic medium for exploring the future, with its own vocabulary and advantages. With both at your disposal, you’ll be unstoppable!
The key is to find a medium that helps you translate your imagination into something that can be shared with others. Writing is just one way to do that.
Great writing communicates with clarity & impact
“How well we communicate is not by how well we say things, but how well we are understood.” — Andrew Grove.
Writing helps us articulate designs so that they can be evaluated by different audiences. The written word helps ideas spread quickly, to inform, persuade, or entertain a large and distributed audience.
While visuals are important, words can help articulate the hard work and difficult decisions made behind the scenes. When communication is clear, the ideas are easily understood, which means they can be properly evaluated. Because of clear communication, it’s easy to tell when an idea is wrong.
Effective communication also helps others understand us. In a world of emails, texts, and slack messages, writing well lessens the chance that we’ll be misunderstood. In today’s workplace, clear and effective writing is as important as ever.
Great writing doesn’t automatically produce great designs.
As a design skill, however, writing can help us craft effective content, think through complex scenarios, and communicate our ideas with clarity. Words are just as powerful as the visuals we create.
To become a better writer, all you have to do is start writing. Look at the work of people you admire, study it closely, and evolve your own style and way of communicating.