User experience (UX) used to be the new kid on the block, requiring disambiguation from terms like user interface (UI) design and interaction design (IxD). These days, most people are familiar with the idea of UX, but not many have heard of, let alone understand the importance of, information experience (IX).
IX is an important part of UX. A good user experience needs good content. Without information, a user cannot use a product.
"Information" isn't limited to words. Even if a UI has no text, the symbols, layout, order, images, colours, sounds, interactive elements, and so on, all communicate something to the user, whether that's the status of an activity, the user's position in a workflow, the purpose of a page, or some other information.
Now that we've established how IX is relevant to UX, let's take a deeper look at the similarities and differences between IX and UX writing.
What is IX writing?
IX writing is another name for information development.
An IX writer (or information developer) typically belongs to an Engineering or Product department in a software company.
IX writers are concerned with designing the digital experience of information –– how information is formed, organised, delivered, presented, and so on. An IX team of information developers might include colleagues with varied skills, including content design, UX writing, information architecture (IA), and so on.
An IX team works with software developers and UX designers to ensure that information is meaningful, accurate, user-friendly, and formatted appropriately, whether that’s as part of technical documentation or in the product itself. The aim is to optimise how people engage with information and, in so doing, to maximise positive user experience (UX). To this end, IX teams are responsible for:
Technical content authoring for a software company’s products and services.
Website infrastructure for this content.
In-product content development (otherwise known as UX writing), such as error messages and on-screen text.
What is UX writing?
UX writing is the creation of user-friendly content for the UI of digital products to help the end-user interact with them.
UX writers help craft in-product content as part of the product design process. This includes buttons, messages, labels, and other UI touch points that guide a user through a product.
As part of product design, UX writers should be involved early in the design process, alongside designers, researchers, and information architects. The aim is create a cohesive content experience. For this reason, UX writing is sometimes described as a sub-discipline of content design.
How does IX writing intersect with UX writing?
As well as creating documentation, IX technical writers typically help to write and review in-product content in a UX writing capacity.
Many IX writing principles and style guidelines used for creating product documentation apply to UX writing, and both documentation and in-product content needs to conform to a company’s voice and tone. It’s thus common to ask IX writers to advise on aspects of UX writing.
Specifically, an IX writer’s input might include:
Improving the functionality, readability, and understandability of on-screen text.
Creating friendly, informative, and clear on-screen dialogues.
Suggesting user-centred, action-focussed wording on buttons and labels.
Creating or editing content for error messages.
Proofreading for consistency and for language, spelling, and grammatical errors.
Recommending different terminology or phrasing.
Providing copy for in-product help, hints, and explanations.
Having said this, not all IX writers will take on the role of a UX writer. Meanwhile, UX writers will typically focus on the design of a product rather than writing the product documentation that comes with it, as IX writers do.
A symbiotic relationship
The term "IX writing" didn't always exist, but it was still being done in (and out of) the context of UX design. Depending on experience, IX writers can collaborate with designers in different ways to contribute to UI design for an effective and engaging UX. This might involve:
Providing early design insights into prototypes and the proposed flow of a feature or product.
Participating in design reviews or focused walkthroughs to answer specific questions, or to identify and help resolve specific issues in the design.
Providing new end-to-end design feedback and recommendations on the same feature or product later in the development lifecycle.
Even if we're talking about documentation –– instructions for using a product rather than the product itself –– this too is a user experience. User experiences rely on the user consuming and acting on information.
The information is the experience; the reader is using the documentation to get a job done with the product that the documentation refers to.
User experience refers to the overall experience of a product, service, or system. IX is an important part of that overall experience because you can't have a good user experience without a good information experience.