What is Microcopy and Why Is It So Important
To ensure your website is optimized in terms of UX, you need to take care of multiple things, from the overall design and the positioning of important visual elements to creating functional animations and a fully intuitive website. But there’s another thing, seemingly not that relevant, that can actually make all the difference for your website visitors. It’s called microcopy.
But what is microcopy, exactly? And why is it so important to your website? Stick around if you’d like to learn the nuts and bolts of this small, but increasingly more important breed of copy.
What is Microcopy
Microcopy is an essential textual ingredient of every website. The term itself is used to describe small chunks of text that can be found throughout a website or online app. Button texts, CTAs, error messages, confirmation messages, hints and tooltips – these are all examples of microcopy.
Not that long ago, many people believed that this sort of content doesn’t hold too much importance for a website because of its size. In reality though, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it’s just a few words or (gasp!) an entire phrase, microcopy can heavily influence the success of your website.
Microcopy helps users navigate through various processes and it guides them precisely to a service they need. You don’t want people unsure of what to do next, do you? Think of microcopy as a way of giving your visitors a helping hand before they even realize they need one.
Why Is Microcopy Important
These small bits of text shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. Sure, they may not be as prominent as other elements of your website. But you want to ensure a high-quality browsing experience for your visitors, from start to finish, right?
It might do you good to consider microcopy as the actual backbone of your website. Each time someone wants to make a purchase, sign up for an account, or subscribe to a newsletter, it’d be such a shame if they stopped mid-way just because they’re unsure of how to proceed, wouldn’t it?
You want your microcopy to be clear, precise, and to provide reassurance to the visitors. If done right, it’ll actually encourage them to complete the actions they may have been a bit uncertain of. The thing is, people are scared of all sorts of online scams, from others stealing their identities to receiving spam messages.
If there are forms to fill in, sometimes users may not understand which data they’re asked for, or they might not fully comprehend the verbiage used in a message. Your visitors, understandably, wonder why you need their private info, what will happen if they continue to use something after the trial period is over, what is the estimated time the product they’ve ordered will arrive, etc.
Microcopy takes all of these fears away. It’s important to highlight to your users that there won’t be any unwanted surprises or inconveniences if they proceed with an action. Remember, if there are any doubts, they’ll often lead to hesitation, and, most likely, visitors leaving your website.
When you’re transparent and you let people know both what’s expected of them and what they should expect, you encourage them to get to their goal quickly and effortlessly. This makes them feel satisfied, which further leads to them doing exactly what you want from them – buying a product, subscribing to a service or a plan, etc.
How to Write Good Microcopy
We’ve already mentioned several times that microcopy must be clear, concise, and helpful. But is writing it really that simple? It shouldn’t be hard to explain to people what they need to do and why a certain action is required, right?
The thing is, sometimes you may struggle to find the right words. This is true for all writing. But it becomes especially difficult when you have so little room in which you need to convey an important message or provide instructions. Do you go for something witty, lighthearted, or completely serious-sounding? And how to you phrase it in a way that’s both unequivocally clear and not overly complex?
For starters, focus on determining the appropriate tone and try to maintain it throughout the whole website. Never forget your target audience and what the purpose of your website is.
What can also be extremely beneficial is to do research on the language your audience uses. You can’t just assume it’s the same as yours. Try to put yourself in their mindset and think about the difficulties they could be facing, as well as about their goals. Don’t use jargon, though. It’s important everyone understands what you have to say, so it’s for the best to avoid any form of slang, as it could lead to even more confusion. You can talk to your audience, check out how they write on other platforms and forums in order to get to know them better. Then you can tailor your lingo to them.
To write good microcopy, it’s important to have a great understanding of the user behavior patterns. There are several tools that can help you with that, but probably the most useful one is Google Analytics. What are visitors doing on your website, which paths do they take once they’re there? It’s incredibly useful to learn about how your target audience reacts when shopping online, what sort of info they’re willing to provide when filling out a form, etc. Once you know what can drive them away, it becomes a lot easier to write your microcopy and improve the overall user experience of your target audience.
Microcopy needs to be reassuring. You must write it in such a way that it clears any doubts visitors could have about your service and products. A fine example is certainly the Hotjar’s website. They invite you to try it out for free, which is why it’s mentioned at the top of the homepage that your credit card details won’t be necessary. They know that people will most likely have this doubt in their mind before signing up, so they’ve clarified things from the get-go.
When you click on Try it free, that’s when you get to create your account. See how it’s pointed out that you can go back to the free version anytime? Again, the team behind Hotjar is aware of the fact that their visitors will probably wonder if they’re going to be stuck with the business plan forever, hence them placing the explanation at the very top.
Of course, you can let your personality shine through the content on your website, even when it comes to microcopy. A great example of adding a human touch to an otherwise quite impersonal website section is the Dollar Shave Club’s website. Instead of simply listing the things that their kit consists of, they’ve managed to weave in a bit of humor here by specifying that the manicurist doesn’t come with the kit.
When you write microcopy for forms, be careful while you do it. It’s essential to clarify what data you need from your visitors and why. Facebook did a great job with their sign up form. Right from the get-go, they make sure you know that signing up is quick and easy. Furthermore, they inform you why you’re required to enter your birthday.
Regarding your gender, Facebook lets you know that you can easily hide it or, if you’d rather not disclose it, they advise you to select the option Custom.
Pay special attention when writing error messages. These are often overlooked and sometimes aren’t even included in the planning stages of a website. That’s why, if someone else is building your website, it’s important to communicate with the development team. You must be able to predict all the errors that could occur, so you can tailor microcopy accordingly. It’s not particularly helpful if you write the message using professional jargon, as some users might not understand what you meant. You don’t want them to feel lost.
The New York Times took great care of this on its website. They don’t want to lose their visitors after they’ve hit the 404 page, so they’ve tailored microcopy in such a way that incites people to stay on the website and do a new search.
Sometimes, all it takes to turn your visitors into paying customers is a final, effective push in the form of an enticing CTA button. It’s not enough to make it stand out by coloring it in a bright, contrasting color, or to craft it big in size. What you write on it is even more important, as it’s supposed to make your visitors take action. The Epic digital agency has a CTA button which invites you to start making new projects together with them. They could’ve used a simple Start Now message, or something similar. But this way, they’re encouraging their visitors by telling them they’re going to be in it together.
Netflix has a straight-to-the-point CTA where they immediately inform the user that they can use the service for a month free of charge.
Don’t Forget to A/B Test It
Before you definitely make up your mind regarding microcopy, make sure to A/B test it, to see what drives your target audience into action. Even though it’s possible you won’t be able to understand why a certain version of the text works well and others don’t, it’s of utmost importance to do the testing. What matters is to discover which version of your micro copy has a better effect on the visitors.
Let’s Wrap Things Up
Microcopy is one of the essential elements that contribute to a spotless user experience. These two simply go together like a lock and key. Words (and microcopy in particular) can be a website killer, which is why it’s important to stop overlooking the text you use. The messages you put out can literally make or break your business. So do things the right way. Put in the necessary work and get to know your audience. This will not only help you ensure the look and feel of your website is to their liking, but also guide you toward writing better microcopy. Make sure you direct users toward your goals and encourage them what to do next. Increase their engagement, help them along the way, and in the end, your business will profit off it.