First and foremost, let’s talk about what microcopy actually is, because continuing on without doing that would just be rude. So, microcopy – it’s not some complex process that involves a decade of experience, it just involves some creativity (necessary) and a little wit (if that’s your thing). You actually spend about half your work day looking at microcopy when you are sitting on Facebook looking at the status bar that reads “What’s on your mind?” That is all microcopy is! It’s the little paragraphs or even just words that make any website more entertaining and fun to use.
Microcopy is your way of giving your consumer a pleasant surprise. Anyone who is a frequent user of the internet is used to seeing “404 Service Error,” which is visually unappealing and makes you want to set a speed record for exiting that browser. However, when that same frequent internet user sees this…
…they are more visually enthused.
I once saw a freelance WordPress blog and the footer read, “Powered by WordPress, sarcasm, and lots of coffee.” The whole idea is being able to occupy the short attention span of your website’s visitors and any copywriter will explain to you that the postscript is the most read part of any advertisement, letter, or web page. The words of microcopy are meant to be short and concise.
There are five general rules to writing great microcopy:
Ask yourself how you want to represent your brand… are you the formal business type, the inspiring entrepreneur, or the cool internet mogul? Either way, your theme is your website’s voice, so once you have identified it, make a list of potential problems that a user could run into on your site and dummy proof it.
The Perfect Example: If you site requires a form be filled out and an “error” message is at the top, that may be too indirect and your visitor is getting a headache refilling out all their information. So, instead, have the text more like “Phone numbers should contain 10 numbers.”
By making any microcopy conversational, the user can feel more at ease when functioning through your website. If your website allows users to register and they need to create a password, sometimes, when retyping the password for “security,” the original spelling gets lost in translation. So, rather than it reading “Password Error,” reassure your user that it is a simple mistake with something along the lines of “Oops, it appears as though your passwords do not match up, give it another shot so we can get you started!”
A lot of times, humor gets lost in translation, especially if your jokes do not go along with your brand / theme. While some users will probably understand your humor and get a kick out of it, you would be amazed at the number of people who don’t understand it, even with common pop culture references like titles of movies… I know, it’s frustrating, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
You can totally track your microcopy and you totally should because it helps you understand what is working for your demographic and what isn’t. While your best work might be like Twitter where their creativity shines through their maintenance pages, the maintenance screen should not give you hopes of an increase in your conversion rate. Microcopy on a loading screen or maintenance message is just to lower your abandonment rate. Microcopy you might use on a button would increase your conversion.
While you want to remain conversational, you also want to keep it short and to the point because let’s face it, the human attention span is getting worse – globally. The whole goal of microcopy is for it to be short and helpful, hence the word “micro.” Also, since you should keep it to a minimal number of characters, your vocabulary has to be on point in order to convey your message. We all know that “good,” “great,” and “awesome,” all have similar meanings, but as you read them, they elicit different levels of enthusiasm.
Now, with these five wonderful tips now tucked away in your mind, readily available to assist you in writing the best microcopy ever, just remember… It’s all about the context, yo!
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