Microcopy is the plethora of small pieces of text that make a website, mobile app or retail product easy to use and consumer-friendly.
The unsung hero of good copywriting, typical examples include words on labels, buttons, menus, notifications, headlines, form elements, checkouts, error message, auto-responders and calls to action. Its purpose is to help clarify, explain and direct, as well as ease a user’s concerns and promote consistent branding.
Making it effective
Although microcopy only consists of a few well-chosen words or sentences, it’s important not to underestimate its importance. Quality website microcopy can pack quite a punch and can make the difference between a profitable site and a struggling one. Here are our tips to making it work for you.
Don’t use jargon
As with any copy intended for public consumption, it’s never a good idea to include too much jargon or industry-speak. Microcopy in particular is intended to help the user, so it’s especially important that your message is clear and direct.
Knowing your audience and speaking to them as if you were in conversation will help to avoid unnecessary wordage.
Allay people’s fears
Navigating through a large e-commerce site or signing up for a members-only site can create concerns for your users, particularly when they find themselves entering personal and billing information. A little bit of careful attention to microcopy here and there can do wonders to allay people’s fears and encourage them to go ahead with joining the site or making a purchase.
Letting people know that they’ll only have to enter their data once, that they can make changes to information later or that their credit card details are safe will help them to feel at ease on your website.
Apply your usability findings
If you’ve read our previous blog post on website usability testing, then you’ll be aware of the importance of finding out how your audience actually interact with your website. But once you’ve discovered people’s preferences and concerns, you need to act upon the information, and this is where micro copywriting can come into its own.
If your users routinely click on the ‘wrong’ buttons, for example, a well-chosen word or two directing them to the ‘right’ place takes very little effort to implement but could make a big difference in revenue. Experiment with changing your microcopy and see what works.
Make it obvious
You need your website microcopy to be clear and help point your users in the right direction. And you need to say exactly what you mean. So rather than saying a vague, ‘Sign Up’, you might find your site attracts more customers if you instead use a more specific, ‘Try it for free’. Suddenly, your users know that they won’t have to pay (see earlier point about allaying fears), and they know what they’re in for.
Don’t forget the context of the page as well and the likely route your users have taken through the site. Put yourself in their shoes and you’ll avoid poor communication and misconceptions.
Make it easy to read
Sentence length, vocabulary choice, not too much text. Your audience don’t want to read loads of ‘small print’. So keep microcopy to short sentences and where appropriate just a word or two. Make sure your language choice suits your target audience and make sure it also fits with the tone of the website as a whole.
Make things easier for your audience, speak directly to them, and they’ll be more likely to make a return visit.
Take the branding opportunity
Don’t waste the opportunity for a branding moment. Just because it’s ‘only’ an error message or a 404 page, doesn’t mean it can’t be on-brand and making your audience smile when they read a non-standard error message is never a bad thing. Just don’t go over the top with it. As with everything, if you overdo it and try to use your brand’s tone of voice everywhere, even the funniest or most sophisticated style will becoming irritating and confusing.
Making the majority of your microcopy straightforward will mean that the times when you do show off your corporate brand identity within the small print are more memorable and effective.
Of course, the most important tip is not to ignore or forget about your microcopy. It might be small, but it says a lot in a few words and can have the biggest impact of all on your users and the overall success of your site. As they say, it’s all in the detail.