Tiny words – big choices A micropost about microcopy.

a cartoon of a red ant standing next to a yellow capital letter A. Text reads 'A is for ant'

 

After writing the copy for an exciting new recruitment app this week, I’ve been inspired to blog about the technique I used – a (very) little thing we call ‘microcopy.’

In tribute to microcopy, this post will be short and direct (in total departure from my usual style.)

What is microcopy?

Microcopy is the term used for the small pieces of text that appear on an app or website’s interface, that help users ‘do stuff’ (technical term.)

Microcopy could be a call to action:

‘Click to view’

Or an explanation

‘Move slider to show salary expectations’

Or a request

Complete profile before proceeding’

Microcopy is also used to ease any doubts a user might have about the actions you request.

This might include giving an explanation about why specific information is needed

Phone Number: (In case we need to call you about your order.)

Or what will happen to data, once captured

‘We won’t auto tweet or spam your friends.’

And can reassure and direct users when things go wrong

‘Ooops, something’s not right. Please refresh your browser and try again.’

 What should microcopy achieve?

Microcopy may look short and sweet, but it has a huge impact on conversions and must be carefully constructed in order help make an app or website as user friendly as possible.

It should provide guidance without being intrusive –  pare it back when the user needs less support and amp it up, with clear, direct instructions when things get a little more complex.

Each and every word needs to be chosen with great care, in order to work with, rather than against the user (good microcopy creates flow, rather than stopping the user in their tracks.)

A word about design

Microcopy must work together with design – if the two aren’t in harmony, the end result will be an interface that’s frustrating, jarring and just plain difficult to use.

Good app design should be intuitive, guiding users with ease. Great microcopy is no replacement for effective design, and great design cannot replace effective microcopy. Still with me?

What makes good Microcopy?

Microcopy should be;

  • As short as possible (each word must serve a clear purpose, or be brutally culled)
  • Friendly and conversational (rather than rude and robotic)
  • Encouraging, prompting the user to think out loud (hmm, what does it want me to do here…I see!)
  • Unambiguous
  • Present only if needed (if your user can figure it out for themselves, let them)
  • Accessible (‘ask for pricing’ is better than ‘request a quote’)

What Microcopy doesn’t have to be

Boring.

Microcopy should be clear, succinct and useful. It doesn’t have to put people to sleep.

Many brands use microcopy to inject humour and personality.

An error message doesn’t have to contain dry, standardised copy, as eHarmony demonstrate:

‘Uh oh, that page couldn’t be found. But you’re looking for love in all the right places – let’s find someone right for you.’

And if your microcopy directs users to leave a review, your grading system can be delightful rather than dull (as shown by Yelp, who use ‘Eek, methinks not!’ for one star and ‘Woohoo, as good as it gets!’ for five star reviews.)

Microcopy can be cheeky, silly, fun, funny but never frivolous. It’s there to do a job. How it does that job is up to you (or you and your (micro)copywriter – see below.)

Need some Microcopy?

If you’re creating a new app or website, give some thought to investing in a professional (micro)copywriter.

This isn’t a very small wordsmith. It’s an experienced professional, who has spent many hours and days crafting bite size text for a wide range of audiences.

E-commerce sites, in particular, can often lose customers if their checkout process is long or stressful (abandoned baskets littering the virtual aisles.)

Keep users on board, engaged and focused, with microcopy that’s expert, not accidental.

Who can help?

As luck would have it, I’m a (micro)copywriter (I also write great big copy too.)

I got an A* for GCSE English.

And if you hire me to work on your app or website, I’ll be able to afford the stock image of ants carrying the ENTIRE alphabet that I’m lusting after for this post. As it stands, one ant, one letter (free image.) That makes me sad. It should make you sad too (have you no heart?)

Contact me now.

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