For this installment of our ‘subscriber focus’ series, we caught up with Andy Healey from Shopify about readability and UX. How does readability help build trust in UX content? 

Why does readability matter to you?

We love learning from our wide variety of subscribers about why readability is important to them. Here’s what Andy had to say:

“In Shopify’s design system, Polaris, there’s a great quote about why clear content is important: 

“Shopify merchants are busy people who may be running their online business in addition to having a full-time job, managing their family life, and doing a million other things. They’re also located all over the world, have varying levels of literacy, and some may not speak English as their first language.”

No-one ever said, “I’m loving this checkout experience, I wish it would last a bit longer”.

Shopify recently announced that there are 1 million stores now using Shopify. I work on the Checkout team, which means that I’m writing content for the millions of different people who buy from all of these stores. 

Now no-one ever said, “I’m loving this checkout experience, I wish it would last a bit longer”. When people get to the checkout they want to make their purchase as quickly as possible and move onto the next thing in their lives. 

Writing readable, clear, content removes any confusion or doubts, helps people to move quickly through the checkout process, and builds trust between them and the store, making them more likely to shop there again in the future.

And of course accessibility, including the use of plain language, is a legal requirement in many countries.”

Andy’s comprehensive and international approach to readability is admirable, and all UX writers should take note. In an ecommerce context, keeping the merchants and the customers in mind is crucial. 

A simple checkout experience is something we all take for granted. But Andy’s work with clear communication is what makes that seamless process possible. We’d be left confused and frustrated without it. 

How does Readable help you to achieve your writing goals?

We’re delighted that Andy has chosen to use Readable in his workflow, so we asked him how he uses the tool:

“When we’re creating content we’ll often have a number of different options, and we’ll build rationale for which option is most optimal. A key piece of that rationale is readability. 

Using Readable can be a great way for them to hone and tighten content.

I’ll try out each option is Readable so that I can quickly decide if there are options we should exclude because they don’t meet our readability guidelines (US grade 7).

Because designers and developers will often create content as well (empty states or error messages for example), using Readable can be a great way for them to hone and tighten content.”

We always strive to create a tool for you that’s quick and easy to understand. We’re so glad we can be that tool for Andy. That Shopify’s readability guidelines are to meet US grade 7 is also impressive. 

It shows that the brand wants to make the effort to create a seamless experience for the user. One which includes using content that’s easy to scan. As we learned at a plain language conference recently, readability isn’t about dumbing anything down — it’s about opening up. 

By having readability guidelines as part of his UX content strategy, Andy’s putting the user first. 

Shopify is all about helping vendors and customers alike to have the most straightforward ecommerce experience possible. What are your top tips for UX writers?

So, what can UX writers learn from Andy? Take notes, here’s his advice: 

“The number one tip for UX folks is usually to understand your audience. Working on the Checkout team at Shopify that’s a little more tricky, as the audience is basically anyone. I’m fortunate enough to work with great researchers and data people who give us real insights into what works for audiences and what doesn’t.

A good UX writer should have an instinctive feel for what is the right content for their audience, but research insights and peer-feedback can take you from good content to great content.

So I’d say try to get as much feedback on your work as you can - my favourite part of the job is when designers make a suggestion that I’d not considered, or developers call me out for not following our content guidelines.”

We agree that it’s tricky to understand your audience when they’re made up of such a wide variety of people. By using Readable, Andy is always able to ensure he’s writing for the general public in a way that’s clear and easy to understand. 

Our Readable customers are also widely ranging — from technical writers to educators to content marketers. We're continually developing our tool to suit all of our users’ needs. As a part of this, we’re always trying to create content that’s useful and insightful for many types of writers. Feedback is essential to us.

We love putting a spotlight on our users and how they’re using readability in their work to improve the usability of their content. If you have your own story and want us to give your work some exposure in this series, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Many thanks to Andy for taking the time to share his expertise! See more from Andy Healey on Medium.

Laura Kelly

Laura is a freelance writer and worked at Readable for a number of years. Laura is well-versed in optimising content for readability and Readable's suite of tools. She aims to write guides that help you make the most out of Readable.