Should Ux Writers Code?

The pros and cons of editing strings in your product.

Bugs

Bugs, bugs, bugs. During my time as a UX writer, I’ve come across a ton of bugs in the products I work on. And yes, many of those bugs happen to be text bugs. A typo here, some confusing copy there, inconsistencies everywhere. What’s a writer to do?

Earlier in my career, I would create bug reports for those text bugs and then send them to developers. I’d feel proud, knowing I’m doing my part to improve the user experience. “I’m rewriting this error message for our users!” I’d tell myself.

But after sending those bug reports, I’d wait. And wait. And wait. And a lot of times, those bugs would get deprioritized or forgotten. Over time, I realized that sending bug reports for tiny text issues wasn’t worth the hassle.

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As I wallowed in my own tears, I had a thought: What if I just went into the code and edited the text strings myself? I’m no developer, but I dabbled with code in my younger days. Tweaking a few strings can’t be that hard, right?

Well, after making about a dozen code changes in the past few weeks, I will say it was a lot more painful than I thought—but totally worth it. And the best part? After seeing my code changes go live, I finally felt like I had control over my product’s content.

Do Other Ux Writers Edit Code?

When I started editing strings, I asked around to see if other writers did this. Most UX writers don’t seem to edit strings, but there are a few teams who do. For example, the whole UX writing team at HubSpot edits strings. Over half of the content strategists at Shopify do too. I’m just late to the party.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with a few of these writers, and they’ve been a huge help to me as I dive into the code. Below are some of the takeaways I learned from them and from my own attempt at editing strings.