On October 21–23, UX writers from around the globe will be gathering for Button, the first product content conference hosted by Brain Traffic, producers of Confab since 2011. Among the speakers will be Jennie Tan, Sophie Tahran, John Paz, and Angela Gorden, talking on topics ranging from voice and process to smart content and diversity in tech. You can get a taste of their insights at a Button preview event hosted by the Dropbox UX Writing team on Thursday, October 15, at 10am PST.

Read on to learn why they picked their topics, how they think the state of the world has impacted UX writing, and see where they’re currently crafting words at home.

Jennie Tan
Jennie Tan is a UX Writing Lead at Dropbox. Find her on Medium.com for tips on writer productivity and empowerment. Sophie Tahran Headshot Photograph by Sophie Tahran
sophie tahran headshot
Sophie Tahran is the Senior UX Writer for The New Yorker at Condé Nast. Past lives include creating InVision’s UX writing practice and wearing many hats at Lyft.
John Paz
John Paz is a design professional who creates a vast variety of complex content for highly technical audiences. He's also a sports-crazy husband and father of three teenagers.
Angela Gorden
Angela Gorden is a Lead Writer at Work & Co. She’s written and designed content for digital experiences for companies including Dropbox, Amazon, Guardian Life, and T-Mobile.

Why did you pick the topic of your talk?

Jennie Tan (Topic: “Suggested for you”: Lessons learned in writing smart content): Last year, I was involved in a lot of smart content projects. I noticed a few common themes emerge, and wanted to share them to help other smart content writers!

Sophie Tahran (Topic: UX writing department: Adapting the voice of the New Yorker): The tech industry tends to be well represented at conferences, so I wanted to provide a glimpse into the media world. For one, UX writers in media are adapting an existing voice—one that originated in long-form print—to a digital environment, as opposed to crafting a voice from scratch. There are also more relationships to foster: the publication's editors, copy editors, and more, in addition to your product and design counterparts, many of whom have journalism backgrounds. They care about words!

John Paz (Topic: The “pipeline problem” is about belonging): After working in tech for over a decade, I started to wonder where they were hiding all the minorities. Up until very recently, many people just took the notion of the "pipeline problem" as the answer for why tech companies were making so little progress on diversifying their workforce. Then, in 2018, one Tweet about what #BlackTechTwitter looks like blew that whole excuse out of the water. It validated my suspicions all along; there are plenty of Black techies out there, just most of us prefer not to work in tech because we're treated so poorly.

After doing some research into just how dismal tech's diversity numbers are, especially when compared to other STEM fields, it was clear I had to take this message to the masses. I'm evidence that the "pipeline problem" is a myth, and ignoring the glaring disparities in recruiting, retainment, and treatment of minorities in tech is done at the detriment of not just those minorities, but also to the tech companies perpetuating the problem. I quiver when I give this talk, because so much of it is deeply personal and disproportionately important to me. But I long for the day when the content becomes irrelevant because tech will have found a way to be equitable to minorities.

Angela Gorden (Topic: Write better, faster, and with more authority): I wanted to talk about some of the non-writing skills you need to succeed as a UX writer. I sometimes think we don’t give them enough attention.

Do you think the state of our world has impacted UX writing?

Jennie: Yes, I think so. Empathy has always played a role in UX writing, but this year, it's become more important than ever. World events have led us to become even more mindful of writing with kindness, respect, and inclusivity.

Sophie: It sure feels like this year has impacted everything, doesn't it? At the most basic level, I feel extremely lucky to have a job that can be performed remotely, but working from home has its own challenges, especially for parents and caregivers.

Though it's only one slice of the state of our world, this election has continued to underscore the importance of trustworthy information and accessible language, to say the least. When Facebook adds a qualifier to a news source, or Twitter labels an inaccurate post, it's a very real reminder that clarity is key.

John: The events of today only lend themselves to increasing the perception of value UX writing contributes. In this post-truth, fake-news era of truthiness, the power of words has never been more apparent. We are in the business of pedaling words, so by proxy it only highlights the value we provide. Words shape experiences and have every bit of impact that shape, color, or texture might in influencing perception (some would argue even more).

Think of the most heated debates in the US right now, and they all hinge on slight (yet important) differences in words. Words are being weaponized to mean the opposite of their original intent (Anti-facism, or Antifa, for example). And our society is regularly hijacked by bad actors looking to sew division...with memes. These tumultuous times have only validated what us content pros have known all along: the stakes are far higher for the words we use than anyone wants to admit. I'm not sure society has come around to agree with us yet, but it's not for lack of trying. It just seems everyone is too angry, too afraid, or too apathetic to admit it, and we're all afraid of accountability for the words we use.

Angela: Now that we’re living more and more of our lives online, writing and digital products in general, are even more central to how we communicate, learn, buy groceries, get information about breaking news. The impact is huge.

What’s your favorite (remote-friendly) writing nook?

Jennie: I have one chair in my bedroom that I pretty much do everything in—watch Netflix, make friendship bracelets (lol, my new pandemic hobby), and, of course, write. It's covered in blankets to protect it from potential kitty accidents.

Jennie's Writing Nook

Sophie: It isn't the most ergonomic, but we have a rocking chair set up next to a window in our living room, making for a cozy spot to bask in the afternoon sun.

Sophie's Writing Nook

John: I only just recently moved back home to Orlando, Florida, after moving away to Sydney (and then San Francisco). I've never had a dedicated office space of my own, and the way this office came together has me wishing I'm never without my own space to do work for the rest of my life! I didn't even have to buy any new furniture! It was all stuff from other rooms that just came together. And what I love most is (obviously) my UCF pride all over the walls. Where my desk is positioned, I recognized it was a perfect place to put up something that will always be in the background of my Zoom calls. What would be better than my alma mater's logo and football national championship banner to place there, forever trolling college football fans for the duration of the call? The answer is nothing. Nothing is better.

John writing nook

Angela: This is the balcony of my apartment. When the air quality is good, this is my favorite place to work. The Wi-Fi router is inside, right next to the balcony door, so that helps. This is one of my cat Arya’s favorite spots too.

Angela's writing nook

To hear more from Jennie, Sophie, John, and Angela, RSVP for the Dropbox Button Preview event on October 15.

If you’d like to attend Button, register with the code DROPBOX15 for a special 15% discount brought to you by Dropbox Design.

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