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UX microcopy basics

Gain insight into a few must-know UX writing styles.

Unlike writing for marketing – which is designed to compel and convince – good UX writing should be forgettable. Instead of wowing audiences, it makes complex processes feel natural and offers a sense of control.

Think of UX writers as tour guides. Just as a good guide prepares for the unexpected, a good UX writer uses text patterns to help users navigate digital experiences. When applied correctly, these patterns help prepare users, answer their questions, and provide crucial life preservers should they get lost along the way.

How UX writing is used across an experience

Text is applied in a variety of ways during a digital experience. It needs to reflect diverse products, processes, and messaging across apps and websites.

UX text might include:

  • text explaining how to subscribe to or order something

  • a targeted call to action, like ‘sign up now’ or ‘add to bag’

  • onboarding text designed to simplify complex software

  • instructional text about password resetting

  • error text, such as 404 pages and form field errors.

A different pattern for every occasion

Because text is applied so differently in each of these examples, it’s helpful to separate text types into groups. We call these different groups text patterns.

UX text patterns consist of:

  • titles

  • toggles

  • buttons, links, help tips, and other commands

  • notifications

  • errors

  • text-input fields

Digital experiences incorporate most of these patterns, but their applications can be very different – even within the same experience.

A closer look at UX text patterns

To give you an idea of how context-dependent UX text can be, we use three distinct brands to break down each of these patterns.

Cosmos user interface

Cosmos is an image-sharing app for artists. It promotes users in its image feed based on interaction and collaboration.

StarPlay user interface

StarPlay consolidates gamers from different platforms and lets them stream games together.

Control Space user interface

Control Space is a collaborative workplace tool for notes, presentations, voice memos, and document sharing.


Titles provide users context and suggest further action during an experience. They're your most important instructional text for one simple reason: people want to read as little as possible. With this in mind, there are ways titles are commonly used in digital experiences.

Cosmos 'Pic of the week' page

Content name

A content name title is used to give users a quick impression of the content contained on a page. This could be the title of an article or a social media post. In this example, Cosmos uses the content name title “Pic of the week” to show the most upvoted picture on the service for that week.

StarPlay 'Connect to network' page

Specific task

A specific task title guides a user to take a certain action. The use of an imperative verb reinforces the use – and therefore user success – of this action. StarPlay applies a specific task title on a screen, which players use to connect to other gamers. Even without the descriptive text, the title paired with the buttons gives the user a clear indication of potential actions.

Control Space 'Notifications' page

Ambiguous task

An ambiguous task title suggests a series of related actions that can be taken. It’s a useful way to remind users what they can do and is often used for user accounts and settings screens. Here Control Space uses “Settings” to cover the tasks a user can take on the page. The page uses additional ambiguous task titles (“Notifications” and “Text”) to provide further context to each sub-section.


Controls tell a user when they can customise an aspect of an experience. When controls inform a user of a changeable state, the name of the control is paired with the state of the control. Some controls resemble physical switches and toggles to give an even clearer impression of the control’s current control state at a glance.

Cosmos settings page

Radio buttons

Cosmos uses toggles – known as radio buttons – to tell a user that only one of the three examples listed under each category can be chosen.

Control Space notifications page

Toggles and checkboxes

Control Space uses checkboxes to indicate 'yes' or 'no' depending on whether they’re checked or unchecked. Similarly, the states controlled by switches are on or off depending on whether the toggle is on the left or right.


Buttons help users communicate with an experience by providing clear responses to questions and prompts. Using interactive text with buttons also guides users to these prompts to ensure options are eye-catching.

Control Space 'update available' notification

Button tips

There are a few simple ways you can make better interactive text.

  • Use verb-first commands to emphasise actions a user can take.

  • Restrict buttons to one or two words.

  • Match words in a button to the page title to reinforce the action the user is taking.

Text input fields

Good text-input fields can help users input information like names, email addresses, or numbers more accurately. They do this by including guides, such as hints, labels, and prefilled text, in a few specific ways. These approaches can involve:

  • The name of the information to be entered

  • An example of the information to be entered

  • A verb-first instruction for entering information

Just keep one thing in mind: after you choose approach to text-input fields, stick with it. Keeping form field text consistent helps users better familiarise themselves with an experience, which can help them become more confident about subsequent actions.

StarPlay 'Set theme' settings functionality

Using single-text input guides

On this login screen, Starplay uses labels in the fields themselves. This hint directs users by suggesting required information in each text field.

Control Space payments page

Using multiple text input guides

To ensure users don’t get their payment details confused, Control Space provides complete context by naming the fields to be entered and providing hints.


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