While there are plenty of good examples of UX copy, this blog post isn’t about those.
Instead, it’s about the “other kind” of UX copy – that, nevertheless, keeps resurfacing repeatedly.
Before we start, however, I’d like to clarify that all of these examples have to do with UX writing.
In other words, design-related things like using the “wrong” color for action buttons or poor placement of UI elements will not be covered.
Bad UX Writing Example #1: Using “Submit” As The UX Copy For an Action Button
“Don’t use ‘submit’, unless you’re a dominatrix”
Perhaps that statement was a bit too bawdy, but it’s also true – and despite this, it’s not rare to see buttons that use “Submit” as their Call to Action.
But what’s so wrong with using “Submit?”
Yes, it’s submitted, but what then?
- Will the program do something with the information the user supplied?
- Or is it just going to stuff it somewhere and never look at it again?
Therefore, instead of using “Submit,” it’s much better to use an action-oriented word like “Save” or “Send” (depending on the context, of course).
Bad UX Writing Example #2: Assuming That The User Is a Full-Blown Expert on Computer Code
“Failed to refine type: Predicate isEmpty() did not fail.”
It might make sense to a software engineer or computer programmer. However, not everyone that uses computer software has that background.
Because it would be absurd to demand that.
I mean, could you imagine if you had to be an automotive technician to be able to drive a car?
Or that you’d have to be a professionally trained chef so that you could use the oven in your own kitchen?
Bad UX Writing Example #3: Not Giving The User Enough Detail
We’ve just looked at a case where we gave the user too much detail (that wasn’t even that useful, to begin with) – but what about the other side of the coin? What about an error message that is too vague?
Case in point – this error message that appeared on the infotainment screen in my dad’s Ford Focus (you might recognize it from earlier):
Not only that, but the action button just says “OK.” Again – just like in the “Submit” example we looked at earlier, what happens after the user clicks (or presses, as this example, deals with an infotainment system) the button?
Fortunately, it did inspire me to create an improved version of this error message, which you can take a look at here.
Bad UX Writing Example #4: Passive Aggressive And Borderline Hostile Opt-Out Messages
Sometimes known as “confirm shaming,” this is sometimes used when you’re asked to sign up for e.g., someone’s email list (usually one that pops out of nowhere while browsing).
While the copy for the Call To Action button is good and action-oriented, like “Download Guide” or “Get the PDF,” that’s not the problem.
Instead, the problem lies with the copy for the link users who want to close the prompt will click on.
Maybe you know what I’m on about – usually, these messages read something like this:
“No thanks, I don’t care about making $10k each month”
“No thanks, I’d like to continue to make bad lifestyle choices”
“No thanks, I’m a complete knobhead who don’t care about this supercalifragilisticexpialidocious offer.”
Although the last one was a tad bit exaggerated, it demonstrates the point – these types of opt-out messages just shame any user who just doesn’t want this thing that was just shoved in their face from out of nowhere.
It’s a surprisingly effective way to get people to hate you – messages like these just come across as needy, passive-aggressive, and borderline hostile.