Human-centered copywriting with Hannah Alvarez at UXNight

SAN FRANCISCO--Last September 10, OLC attended UXNight at Yelp’s office in this city, where Hannah Alvarez spoke about writing great copy for YX.

Part 1: Copywriting + UX

The right copy can make or break the usability of a product, don’t forget that.

Icon usability study. Most people are pretty familiar with some common icons in apps that exist today, but these can still cause trouble. It’s always good to provide some writing if possible to make it even clearer.

Sometimes icons can be self explanatory, but adding a little bit of copy, they are 159% more likely to do that thing.

Copy shapes the user’s perception of your brand

Copy can help shape and build the type of relationship the users have with your brand. It is the conversation you are having with users. Here are some examples of the types of tone you might want to take:

  • smart
  • polite
  • serious
  • funny

Part 2: Human-centered copy

5 weird things about humans

  1. We’re basically terrified of everything
  2. We read almost nothing, and then we forget almost all of it
  3. We need to both fit in and stand out
  4. Our environment affects our ability
  5. We don’t want to like you


Plain language is your friend; another thing you should always remember.

“Don’t use words your users will have to look up,” Hannah said.

Simplifying is not the same thing as dumbing things down. You’re going to save them time and build a better relationship. That does not mean you can’t make your copy sound intelligent, funny or witty.

Here is a good resource for plain language:

Read the sentence below and fill in the blank. This will help you define the writing style for that project.

My users are the kind of people who really _____.

Part 3: What not to do

Bad copy serves the company’s needs while ignoring the users’. You don’t want to do this.

Your company’s needs should be the same as your customers’ needs; if not, you could be on a sinking ship.


Jargon - words that pertain to a specific industry.

Not every user is your ideal user. You can’t please everyone. Do your best to avoid jargon, use plain language (if possible).

Avoid fluff. Make a list of words to never say and stick to it. Be sure you team is aware of these words too. You want to be consistent in your messaging.

“Every word should serve a purpose.” Hanna said.

Use verbs and the word “because” it’s a magical word. Using the word makes people more likely to let others do things.

  1. Listen to how your users speak
    1. What words do they use to describe their problems
    2. User tests
    3. Remote user testing. Have these people attempt to solve their problems without ever touching your product
      1. Have them search for a way to solve their problem and listen to the words they use
  2. Question everything you write
  3. Test everything you can

Try a lot of different things

              a/b test, check with a colleague

  1. Create a voice and tone guide
  2. Get your team on board