Microcopy is art.
Writing brief, aware and authentic Microcopy is hard. It requires you to understand the product, the user journey, and the action the person on the other side of the screen wants to accomplish.
After going in-depth on UX copywriting and exploring how its focus is also on the product and not just helping users accomplish a goal, let’s dive in on what’s microcopy.
First off —
What is Microcopy? (Definition?)
Microcopy refers to the small pieces of text on websites, apps, and products. It tells users what to do, provides context, addresses user concerns, and sometimes helps you improve the brand experience.
Microcopy is the copy you see on buttons, error messages, tooltips, 404 and ‘Thank You’ pages, that ugly GDPR pop-up we all hate, labels on forms, the extra-fine print below buttons too.
So, what is good Microcopy?
Now, I think it’s important to point out that unlike other guides on microcopy, this one is written by a copywriter and not a UX designer. I’ve based it on half a decade of experience in working with UX teams and developers, so my copywriting chops do play a role here.
When I’m tasked with writing Microcopy for websites, apps, or digital experiences I always focus on four things.
I believe good microcopy is…
Let’s explore further.
Good microcopy is short.
In all seriousness, when it comes to microcopy less always equals more. Not only that, but you don’t have the space to write at length.
So, let’s say you have a search box on your website and it’s the only way for customers to navigate your website/product.
Search box placeholder copy should be fairly short and straight to the point. Let’s say you have enough space for only a few words and you sell multiple property services. What do you write?
“Try: hang a picture”
It’s short. Clear. Straight to the point. It also shows the user how and what to search for.
Good microcopy is aware.
When writing microcopy you need to understand the user flow and the potential friction points that may occur during their time on your website.
I’m all for solid examples, so let’s say that the user is supposed to click a button that says “Book now”.
Once clicked, the user lands on a checkout page. Which is a good user experience, but the user doesn’t know that yet. To them “Book now” means “Pay now”.
If you’ve had any experience working with apps or digital booking platforms at companies you know that changing the button copy isn’t always a good (or easy) option.
Writing aware microcopy means understanding when the user may not click because they aren’t sure what’s on the other side of the button. That’s where microcopy, assuring the user they will not get charged immediately works wonders.
Good microcopy is actionable.
We all want to sell more of whatever we’re selling or engage more with customers or simply create better businesses for said customers.
Sometimes, those customers need a slight, indirect push.
Microcopy is that push.
Here are a few words that can make your microcopy more actionable: try, search, type, explore, enter, filter.
Good microcopy is authentic.
Authenticity is what makes your website into an experience and that experience becomes a sticky brand.
Discord, minus their rebranding fiasco, have done great in inserting an authentic tone of voice in its error messages and tooltips.
Until recently, if you clicked on a link in their app a pop-up would come on-screen saying that “links are spoopy” and if you’d like to proceed.
Writing good microcopy — a micro manual.
As I said in the beginning, microcopy is art. Just like poetry you get to completely break language rules because your goal is to make things clear and helpful.
Firstly, think about the tone of voice.
As mentioned above, good microcopy is authentic and there’s a reason for that. In my article about UX copywriting I go over the importance of having a dedicated UX copywriter because a copywriter understands how to employ a unified tone of voice.
This, in turn, leads to a unified experience which is important if you want to build sticky, memorable brands.
Keep microcopy straight to the point.
Need I say more?
Just cut to the chase.
Always make sure the copy is helpful.
Microcopy is there to guide and ensure the user. Nothing more, nothing less.
Ensure that your copy is helpful and that you call out user fears or uncertainties.
As we said, good microcopy is aware. You can’t be helpful if you aren’t aware of where the customer is and their next steps.
Understand, observe, improve. Tools like HotJar can be a great addition to every copywriter’s toolbox. Put briefly, HotJar helps you spy on your website visitors.
How they interact, the buttons they push, the content they read. It’s like listening to sales calls, but your copy is the sales agent.
Microcopy is vital for creating usable, stress-free apps and websites and digital experiences.
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