January 13, 2023
Why the best things come in small packages
Microcopy: the clue’s in the name.
Microcopy is –you guessed it – short copy that improves the user experience of a website, form, email – or anything else. It’s an important aspect of UX (user experience) writing and design, and as a marketer, you may well be writing microcopy without even knowing it.
Do you write sign-up forms, or button copy for websites or emails? That’s all microcopy.
There are myriad benefits of knowing how to write good microcopy. It’s good for accessibility.It’s good for your user. It’s a chance to finesse your copywriting craft. The list, ironically, goes on. So read on:
Why good microcopy is good for accessibility
It’s likely that you’ve seen a ‘Click here!’ button. Click here – and go where, to do what?
That’s a classic example of bad copywriting, and bad microcopy. The user doesn’t know where they will be going, will likely be irritated - by the process - and may not have achieved their initial goal. This is a bad user experience.
This may be worsened if they are among the 2.2 billion people worldwide with some sort of visual impairment. According to the World Health Organisation, these individuals have a combined spending power of $411 billion, and if they can’t access parts of your offering, they won’t be spending that money with you.
Accurate copywriting on buttons and other features is particularly important for those using screen readers and other assistive technologies. Everyone should have the ability to navigate a website, app, or form, whether they’re using a screenreader or not. So pay careful attention to your microcopy to ensure that people using these technologies can achieve their end goal. By signposting what buttons do and where they go, you help make the user experience a breeze.
Interested in learning more about how you can design for accessibility, diversity, and inclusion? Read Creative Designer Georgine Tucker’s blog, Designing for Inclusion and Diversity.
There are lots of organisations already writing great microcopy. They make that 404 message a little less stressful, and help you easily get to where you’re going. Take a look at some of my favourites:
I love Notion for planning my work, holidays, garden – everything. Notion’s help page is equally excellent: clearly signposted, stylish and simple.
Their resources are clearly labelled, and there’s a simple option to see all their help documents if needed. The links to individual pages inform you of their content, and bonus points for fun illustrations.
I love Mailchimp’s tone of voice. Fun, playful, and makes creating those email campaigns just a little bit brighter. My personal favourite is their error page, as pictured below:
It’s calming –the problem lies with Mailchimp, rather than the user – and directs you back to the home page. There’s even a fun donkey (?) gif to cheer you up. We’re all on a journey, and there’s no-one else I’d rather do it with than Mailchimp.
The UK Government
Whether for renewing passports, driving licenses, filing taxes or for something completely different, the UK government website needs to be accessible and easily usable for everyone. Their microcopy and user experience ensures that anyone, whether digital native or not, can achieve what they set out to.
There are obvious links to relevant documents, the language is clear and easy to understand, and the ‘Renew online’ button does what it says on the tin.
Top tips for writing good microcopy
Although microcopy may only be composed of a couple of words, writing it is an art that takes time to finesse.
Here’s my top tips:
· Remember your organisation’s tone of voice. Microcopy gives you an opportunity to play around and introduce some fun in unexpected places – but you need to ensure that it is consistent with your brand positioning and tone of voice. Otherwise, it risks falling flat.
· Think about how the text fits into the user journey. What will they be aiming to do, and what do you want them to achieve?
· Contextualise your copy. Rather than saying ‘Click here’, try ‘Download now’, ‘Subscribe’ or anything else that describes the goal or action of the button.
· Work with your designer. Understand the user’s journey as a combination of text and design-led features, and work together to build a seamless user experience.
Microcopy is often overlooked. But done well, it can transform the user’s experience of your website, form, or app, encouraging them to use your service again and again. Want to learn more? Subscribe to Transform Digital's YouTube channel to ensure you don't miss the upcoming video.