The UX Writer vindicates his older brother

When I began to immerse myself in the world of UX writing, something caught my attention.

I heard that to become a UX writer it was important to write with the purpose of not being noticed; in other words, if we paraphrase Steve Krug, it means leading users without “ making them think”.

The question that I asked myself was: If I want to be a UX writer, should I then become a ghost?

What a great challenge! Putting myself aside, writing for others, cleaning my traces as perfect killers in detective stories do, just in order not to be uncovered. This led me to think about a controversial literary figure: The Ghostwriter.

Ghostwriter identikit, a Literature outsider.

There are all kinds of ghosts. From Oscar Wilde´s sharp Canterville ghost or the Intimidating father of Hamlet to the funny Casper or the romantic Patrick Swayze in Ghost, just to mention some. These are all lovable characters present in our collective memory.

But, what can be said about the ghostwriter?

As opposed to the previous characters, the Ghostwriter could be defined as the bastard son of Literature, who refuses to acknowledge his merits as a writer by addressing himself as “a mercenary”. The publishing industry does not stay behind in considering him as a necessary evil that very few dare to recognize.

It is about the writer who writes biographies, self- help books, and other pieces of writing on behalf of a particular person or brand. That particular person or brand will ultimately sign and take all the credit for the work.

While Literature, through its institutions, enshrines the creative genius ( the author), the ghost resigns to acknowledge his “ creatures” to survive. Because of this, he is a figure that lives clandestinely, always shrouded in mystery.

The Ghostwriter (2010) by Roman Polanski

As I am very prone to empathize with the excluded and with everything that evokes mystery, I have always been intrigued by his work. What I find very challenging is this idea of silencing his own voice in order to hide behind the brand or the character and adopting the voice and tone that is demanded to him without being able to reveal his authorship publicly.

The brotherhood of ghosts

Up to this point, you will be surely asking yourself: What do the Ghostwriter and a UX writer have in common?

Beyond the fact they come from two different worlds, the publishing and the digital, and far from assuming that they are meant to scare, they share much more than it could seem.

  • As Chameleons, they change colors according to the occasion

Both, the Ghostwriter and the UX writer hide their works by putting themselves in the brand´s shoes and, therefore, they need to clean all trace of their writing presence by silencing their own voices.

Versatile as they are, they are able to adopt as many voices and tones as brands and contexts require it.

  • They are teachers of empathy

The Ghostwriter has to empathize with the character or brand being ghostwritten, to reproduce them most accurately. In addition, he needs to be able to emphasize with the readers or otherwise, the spell under which the reading pact has been made vanishes, just in the same way as Cinderella’s carriage turns into a pumpkin. Readers must never realize that there is someone else behind their writer or character.

The UX writer must empathize with the users by taking into consideration their feelings in order to design wordings to anticipate their steps all through a digital product.

Moreover, as opposed to the lonely writing of the Ghostwriter, the UX writer has to abide by the writing rules imposed by the UX discipline and to be a good team player.

  • They are as good as Sherlock Holmes.

The ghostwriter needs to observe the gestures, to know the personality and to anticipate possible answers from the character or brand that must imitate. This task of interviewing or collecting information can usually take him months and he won´t sit down to write until he has completed it.

Before writing, a UX writer must look into the users and their contexts, as well as knowing the style of the organization he or she works for. The task a UX writer has is not limited to complete interfaces; it is part of a process of interdisciplinary design and must be present in a digital product from the very first moment.

  • His task is meant to help others.

The ghost puts his own creativity aside to make others shine. Like a good ghost, candle lights are not meant for him. His work is to satisfy not only the character or brand that hires him but also his targeted readers.

The UX writer, on the contrary, puts his /her own creativity aside with the sole purpose of leading and helping users to accomplish their goals in their journey through a digital product. The UX writer is always looking for a balance as regards business objectives.

Some ghosts, as the father of Hamlet, look for revenge. But others, yearn for some kind of rematch. So, the UX writer comes to meet the challenge.

While the task of the Ghostwriter depends on remaining in secrecy as a sort of job security, the UX writer reverts everything by vindicating the work of silent writing and one with the purpose of “service” without sacrificing fame.

This new type of ghostwriter, unlike his older brother of the publishing world, does not need to hide. He is now a ghost, proud of his condition.

Final note: a serendipity

Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines serendipity as a “valuable finding produced in an accidental or casual way”.

One day, long before I decided to get into the world UX writing, I made a purchase from a platform called Groupon. My idea was to make a gift. So, I was looking forward to receiving my voucher.

When I was checking out my purchase, I must confess that I was really anxious. Would that confirmation mail arrive?

To my surprise, I found myself with the following wording:

A confirmation message that made the difference: “Thank you for your purchase. Just like a shy ghost or a text message from 1997, your Groupon could last a few minutes to appear, but we will email you as soon as it is ready. Meanwhile, you can check your state in My Groupons”.

It could have been a coincidence, maybe… After all, ghosts are everywhere and help to reveal that element that has always remained dormant; in my case, the passion for writing and helping others through words.

There is no doubt then; I must become a “UX Ghostwriter”.

Vi luz y entré. UX Writing desde los ojos maravillados de una chica de Letras.