Making Open Work
May 8–9, 2017: Training & Tutorials
May 10–11, 2017: Conference
Austin, TX

UI text: Simplicity is difficult

Mike Jang (ForgeRock)
2:35pm3:15pm Thursday, May 11, 2017
Adopt This Now
Location: Meeting Room 12
Level: Beginner
Average rating: ****.
(4.50, 4 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • UI designers and developers, technical writers, program managers, QA engineers, support engineers, and documentarians

What you'll learn

  • Understand the benefits of microcopy
  • Gain exposure to the tools you need to create better microcopy


Web applications frequently have two audiences: end users (consumers) and administrators. End users don’t want to bother with documentation, especially for “simple” tasks such as creating a new account. And while administrators may be more understanding, they also don’t want to deal with documentation for everyday tasks. (They don’t want to refer to documentation just to configure a new property, for example.) And they certainly don’t want to decipher a “self-documenting” developer Java class. Meanwhile, many UI developers don’t have the skills needed to create awesome UI text.

Mike Jang explains that to keep your users happy you need excellent UI text, also known as microcopy. Microcopy can save time—and make the difference in selling an application. Mike shares the lessons he’s learned creating microcopy for a new administrative and end-user web interface and discusses the stakeholders that he had to navigate in order to implement a microcopy style guide for a suite of web applications.

Photo of Mike Jang

Mike Jang


Mike Jang is a senior staff technical writer for ForgeRock, where he documents how deployers can incorporate identity and access management solutions into their systems. To figure out what to write, Mike spends much of his time analyzing and testing new software. He also leads the Write the Docs meetup team. Write the Docs is a global community of people who care about software documentation. With 42 meetups in 11 different time zones, Mike has focused on documenting best practices and helping meetup leaders help each other. Mike has written a couple of dozen technical books, including multiple editions of McGraw-Hill’s RHCSA/RHCE Red Hat Linux Certification Study Guide. He’s also the author of O’Reilly’s Linux Annoyances for Geeks.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Mike Jang
05/11/2017 11:41am CDT

For the latest version of my slides, see

Picture of Mike Jang
04/14/2017 1:34pm CDT

Thanks for your question! First, I’m not a developer, so I may have a different PoV.

I think the one thing that unites good UI teams is the desire to enhance the User Experience (UX).

Sometimes that means focusing on a clean UI, sometimes it means better icons, sometimes, it means appropriate text.

The definition of functionality and simplicity depends on the audience. We work with four different audiences:

  • End users
  • Systems Administrators
  • Sales Engineers
  • Managers

While these audiences share commonalities, what you do with a UI depends on the audience and topic. For example, a “host” means different things to end users and administrators.

For admins, you don’t have to explain “host”. In contrast, for end users, you may want to redesign a UI to avoid making them ask “what’s a host?”

Paige-David Peck |
04/14/2017 12:56pm CDT

I am in a Software engineering capstone class, and we are looking to ask questions for some speakers since we will not be able to make the conference this year. If you have time, could you answer my question?

What should a developer focus most on when building the UI and writing the text, should functionality be more important over simplicity in some regards?