UX writing in the FinTech industry

Poor UX can be costly for businesses—especially in the banking and financial sector. Cara Lam highlights the crucial role UX writing can play.

Over the past decade, user experience has gained a lot of popularity in the tech space, and we’re excited that it’s finally gaining traction in the financial services industry as well. When we think about UX, however, most people think about design and research. What’s still in the cocoon is this relatively newer but just as important focus — UX writing. And believe it or not, when it comes to dealing with people’s money, what and how we talk about something gets scrutinized in detail!

Why does UX writing matter?

UX content is something we see all the time on websites and mobile apps but which we seldom even notice. Think about the instructional text and buttons you’ve seen in apps or on websites you use often — it could be as big as a paragraph explaining why a bank may require identity verification, or as small as a button that says “Make Payment.”

Research shows that people only read about 20-28% of all web content. They do so by scanning the page in an F-shaped reading pattern (for left-to-right languages), with the text on the top left of the page getting the most attention. As you can probably guess, the further down and right the text goes, the less attention it gets.

Heatmaps from user eyetracking studies of three websites. The areas where users looked the most are colored red; the yellow areas indicate fewer views, followed by the least-viewed blue areas. Gray areas didn't attract any fixations.
Heatmaps from Nielsen Norman Group show user eyetracking studies of three websites. Red is where users looked the most, yellow is in the middle, and blue is where users looked the least.

UX writers break down complicated concepts into conversational terms so users don’t get frustrated when using a digital product. By conducting competitor analysis and information architecture research, UX writers can also effectively cut down on redundant text, hence reducing the time needed to complete a task. With effective content, users can complete tasks more successfully and in less time, which directly and positively influences their satisfaction with the product, and in turn, your brand.

When errors do occur, good UX content can also empathize with users and help them fix those problems quickly. For example, compare “Error 4506. Please try again.” with “That password doesn’t look right. Did you have the caps lock on?” Which one sounds friendlier? Which one makes you less frustrated?

Last but not least, UX writing is inclusive. When you write with consideration to users who, for example, rely on screen readers, have impaired vision, or don’t speak English as their first language, you’re extending your services to reach broader audiences and serve even more customers.

Quick tips for UX writing

It’s the UX writer’s job to help users get to where they need to be by using just the right amount of text. No pressure! But just as there are story arcs for novels and formulas for advertisement copy, we UX writers have tips, tricks, and strategies to make our content the most useful it can be.

  • First, everything must be concise. We use short paragraphs, bulleted lists, front-loaded sentences with important words, and white space to make reading and scanning easy. 
  • Second, everything must be useful. All the words you see on a website and within mobile apps have likely been carefully crafted and gone through rounds and rounds of design and legal review. 
  • Third, everything must be extremely clear. Be specific about who, what, when, and where something’s happening. Your users aren’t going to like feeling lost when they encounter a problem. 

These words, appearing as tooltips, buttons, field labels, instruction texts, error messages, or pop-ups, all work together to help users complete tasks with minimal friction.

User looking at a payment overview screen before hitting the continue button.

How UX writing benefits financial institutions

As digital banking becomes the new norm, traditional institutions must keep up with the shift to offer seamless online experiences. Without a UX writer (or team) involved in the content development process, you may wind up with financial jargon that is unclear, clunky onboarding that causes customer churn, and even misleading messaging that results in lawsuits or brand damage. In a recent case, a personal finance company is accused of tricking users into signing up for credit cards—and even hurting their credit scores.

Here’s how investing in UX writing pays off in the long run:

  • Brand building: Consistent voice and appropriate tone (depending on the context) help your brand to tell a cohesive story (and even delight the customer).
  • Customer loyalty: Good UX = good business! Positive experiences will leave customers feeling satisfied and keep them coming back.
  • Competitive edge: Banks and other financial institutions that don’t prioritize quality UX will fall behind in the marketplace.
  • Crisis prevention: Inaccessible or misleading content can lead to costly lawsuits with huge consequences. Don’t put your business at risk!

Learn more in UXCC’s workshops

Want to learn how you can be a more effective UX writer in the FinTech space? Sign up for the Building Trust in FinTech workshop waitlist to be the first to hear when new sessions are added. In this workshop, instructor Cara Lam will teach design hacks and content concepts you can use to boost user trust in sensitive situations. You’ll also gain hands-on experience critiquing and editing content for a banking app. 

Cara Lam is a content designer at Instagram. Connect on LinkedIn.

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