Microcopy is the term for the small bits of copy on a website’s interface that help users with their journey across your site – error messages, contact form explainers, hints… It doesn’t sell your services or products directly, but it backs up your brand values. Its goal is to make the experience easier, alleviate customer concerns and help users through the sticking points on your website. It is an essential part of the purchase process, yet many sites ignore microcopy.
Some examples of microcopy are the prompts you see in text blocks, like the one on Facebook that says “What’s on your mind?” There are lots more examples on flickr’s group pool.
Microcopy can be used very effectively to iron out little hitches on a website, like a prompt to remind users to enter certain details, when you identify a common error. The secret with microcopy is to keep it short – if you’re having to explain something in two or three lines, it’s time to look at how the element was designed or coded.
Here are some tips for writing microcopy:
- Use a friendly, conversational tone – no one likes robotic-speak
- Use a positive tone, so your users don’t feel silly
- Do some simple testing, like asking a not-so-technical friend to go through your site and sales or sign-on process and make a note of where they struggle
- Keep it short and unambiguous
- Only display microcopy when you have to; there’s no point disrupting a user’s flow if it’s not necessary
A lot of people are hesitant to give their information, and even more so, their credit card details, so microcopy can go a long way to reassure website users. The small print could say “your email address will not be used by any other parties. We will not spam you…etc.” With services or downloads, microcopy could state that “no credit card is needed to try this service”. Microcopy can be a very powerful tool to make your website users feel more comfortable, before they commit to a sale or a sign-up.
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