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How Microcopy Can Improve Your Web Design (Part 2)

In the first part of our microcopy discussion, we talked about how a good microcopy can alleviate fears and apprehensions. This time around, we will dig deeper into the several ways that microcopy helps users. Despite its smallness, microcopy is effective in guiding users throughout your website. Almost every transaction clients make on your website involves words.

A dialog box won’t be complete without any microcopy prompt. Empty fields will be confusing without any microcopy guide on what to put. Therefore, you should not undermine the importance of microcopy in achieving an excellent web design.

Here are 4 ways on how a microcopy can help users:

Navigating a website can be tricky without any clear “road sign” on where to go, what to do next, and how to complete a task. There should words that are ready to assist any web visitor. A good microcopy allows a smooth transition from point A to B.

  • Helps users what to do.

    • A website’s user interface should be natural and perceptive of the user’s way of thinking. When someone browses your website, he should be able to tell what do at this moment.
    • Take a look at Facebook’s home screen. The moment you enter your username and password, you will immediately notice the status box. There’s a microcopy saying, “What’s on your mind?” Naturally, users will have an idea on what to do the moment they log in on Facebook.

      Facebooks asks about your thoughts for today.

    • If you look up, there’s also a search bar just above the status box. A microcopy indicates that is where you should input your search keywords. At a glance, users know the different parts of the website through its microcopy.
  • Helps users to take action.

    • A good microcopy convinces users to do something willingly. In the example below, Tenta’s newsletter reminder reassure users that they value privacy and will not give out personal details such as name and email address.
    • Generally, people are hesitant if they should sign up or not. Plus, it gets more difficult if users are required to pay for the subscription. Therefore, a microcopy can really help in reassuring users that every transaction is secured and privacy is not breached.

      Tenta explains their privacy settings.

  • Helps boost your website’s engagement.

    • Microcopy can give your users a nudge to do something. The example below is Shopee’s cart page. When the shopping cart is empty, it encourages people to go shopping and keep searching for products they might like.
    • The best thing about this microcopy is that it is paired with an image. A shopping bag is smiling at the users to give them a friendly and subtle hint to stay and shop some more.

      Shopee’s empty cart is smiling at you.

  • Help users know what to expect.

    • In Facebook where privacy is a main concern for most people, a microcopy is inserted in many parts of the website.
    • In the settings where you are asked on who can see your friends list. You can set it to “only me.” However,  below that, there is a reminder that your friends control their own Timelines. Your activity with a certain person will be visible in their Timelines. So, your friendship can be seen in the News Feed and other parts of Facebook even to those people you are not friends with.

      Facebook reminds users about the visibility of their friends list.

7 Tips in Writing An Effective Microcopy

facebook login

Microcopy on Facebook’s login form.

Microcopy may be a small thing, but it doesn’t mean it is insignificant. It takes more than good writing skills to create a compelling microcopy. There are various elements to consider and I will list several helpful microcopy tips to make your website more user-friendly and easy to use.

  • Tip 1: Design a microcopy from the user’s POV.
    • For the most part, microcopy is not for your users. It is there to help them complete whatever form or transaction they need. You can only design a good microcopy if you consider the user’s perspective. Ask yourself a variety of what if questions and put yourself their shoes. What would be the questions they would ask? Is there a process that could have been handled better?
    • It is important to identify the different areas that are clear, and the sections that needs improvement. Every step of the way, the given microcopy should be able to address the concerns of website visitors.
  • Tip 2: Microcopy should be brief and precise.
    • Microcopy isn’t added to bring color or flavor. It is there to guide. When writing one for your website, be sure to use short sentences or even phrases will do. Your web visitors won’t have forever to read through your detailed instructions. It is called microcopy for a reason because words are supposed to be condensed and not lengthy.
  • Tip 3: Jokes are not for everyone.
    • What is funny to you is not funny to another person. Be careful when you add a little sense of humor to your microcopy. Jokes are very subjective and it really depends on the person reading it. Aside from that, what may sound good in real may not be appropriate when written down. Readers may find it very offensive and rude of you to say such things.
    • For example, after filling out a complicated and wordy sign up form, you will jokingly inform your website viewers that you lost the data inputted. Imagine how that “Oops! We didn’t save that. Please try again.” That would definitely infuriate your users. Instead of creating a cheerful atmosphere, an inappropriate joke will cause unnecessary stress.
  • Tip 4: Add images to your microcopy.
    • Words and pictures are the perfect pair. When words fail, a simple photo guide will greatly helpful. Collectively, they work together to assure the users that everything is fine and they are on the right track.
  • Tip 5: Do not use jargons.
    • Remember that microcopy is added to simplify highfalutin information. Do not bombard your users with complicated and confusing terms. As much as possible, use natural language and write as if you are talking to another person. When your users can relate or identify with you through your language, they will surely trust you. They will be thankful that you made things easier for them!
  • Tip 6: Be cautious when using idiomatic expressions.
    • Like jokes, not everyone will “get” the idiom you are using. Some people will be less familiar with it because of terminological and cultural differences.  Remember tip number #2! Stick to simpler terms and phrases. Straightforward microcopy is the best way to go with it.
  • Tip 7: Test your microcopy.
    • No one gets it right the first. There’s always a “practice” round. Good things take time and it also applies to microcopy. Test, rewrite if needed, and apply new changes. Allocate some time for experimentation to what works and what does not work. You can even ask your users for their opinion by conducting a usability survey.