We’re huge fans of scroll-stopping design around here. (In fact, it’s kind of our thing.) But we also believe great websites that get results require the right mix of conversion-focused design and compelling UX writing.
In this blog, we’re talking all about UX writing and microcopy – what it is, why it’s fundamental when building your website, and how to create engaging copy for the web that moves your audiences to action.
What is UX Writing?
UX writing describes the words that are used in digital products, from websites to apps to ads. When done thoughtfully and with a clear brand voice and personality in mind, it’s the cherry on top of a beautifully designed website, rounding out every corner from navigation and menus to buttons, chat features, error messages, and about pages.
Why is UX writing important?
Great design is all about communication – the purpose of design has always been to capture people’s attention and create a conversation between a product and its user. The visual design of a website and the copy on each page work hand in hand. Design should get users to stop the endless scroll and engage with your content. The words you incorporate on your site, then, should guide users’ interactions and urge them to complete touchpoints and conversions like clicking call to action buttons (CTAs) and filling out contact forms.
For that reason, UX writing and microcopy is design too – it’s critical in shaping the overall user experience and ensuring that every new user that visits your website will get something out of it. It’s not enough to have one or the other – when it comes to designing a five star user experience, we need both strong design and strong copy to achieve the best results.
In a day and age where just about anyone can pay some amount of money and bring a website to life, the way we ensure memorability and a strong impression is all in the details. Everything from the smallest buttons to 404 error pages (because as much as we try to avoid them, errors will happen) have an impact on user experience.
Consider the difference between these two pages. Which creates more frustration? Which would more likely compel you to close the page, and which might make you want to go back to the homepage or the page you were last on and keep exploring?
Herein lies why UX writing matters so much. Now that we have a clear understanding of UX writing, let’s discuss some foundational UX writing guidelines. Hint: there are no rules, and there are several rules.
Guidelines to Follow in UX Writing
Writing great web copy is both an art and a science, and part of writing strong copy is knowing when to break the rules… just a little. But generally, here’s the criteria we recommend beginning with if you’re writing your own UX copy.
1. Keep it concise and clear.
I know, I know. You’ve probably heard this advice about any piece of writing, going all the way back to essays from your freshman year of high school. It’s especially important to UX content though. The way people interact with copy on a page in the digital space (mostly scanning before making any decision to pause and read) requires that copy be concise and effectively communicate a message without taking up more space than is available on the page.
I’ll take you back to my college English classes for a second (hello, English major 🤓) for this tip: when writing concise copy, keep in mind that every word on a page (or in this case, a screen) is taking up valuable real estate. Thus, every word on the screen should serve a purpose. If it doesn’t aid your message, cut it.
I’m not saying to cut every single article or try to get each CTA down to one word, though. Find the right balance of writing short, to-the-point copy that doesn’t lose its meaning for users. Write for all reading levels, and switch any industry-specific jargon that might not resonate with all users to simpler words.
2. Don’t lose sight of the mission.
Some of the best copy gets to the point without being overly straightforward. If you want someone to subscribe to your email newsletter, for example, don’t feel like your only option is to say, “Subscribe to our email newsletter.”
Get creative, be adventurous, but remember to keep it useful to your specific audience. First and foremost, understand who you’re writing for and what they’ll be looking for when they interact with any call to action on a page. The most useful web copy that achieves results is able to pinpoint a target audience’s pain points and offer a clear solution:
Feeling this? Click this. It’ll help.
Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best example. Here’s a few more examples of CTAs that are interesting without getting too off-base.
3. Organize Copy Strategically
Unfortunately, people don’t read websites the way they read a book. If your copy isn’t prioritized to capture the order in which our eyes scan words on a page, it won’t connect with users.
Eye-tracking research has shown us that people read over screens in various patterns, one of which is an F-shaped pattern (they read the first line, then the second line, then begin skipping down the page, only catching the first few words of each sentence). Great copy and design can prevent F-shaped scanning, but it’s important to be aware of the way users will interact with each header, phrase, or sentence.
This means that even the most chef’s-kiss buildup won’t be effective in web copywriting. Instead, frontload your most important copy so people catch what you most want them to get out of a page.
See what I mean?
4. Be sure copy is easily translatable.
Part of writing copy that will resonate universally with any user that finds it is making sure it can be translated into any language.
Translation also means being cognizant of how your copy will land with different cultures and backgrounds. Of course, keep your target audience top of mind when writing content, but don’t forget that phrases that may be particularly culturally relevant to you might not work for others.
5. Embody the voice of your organization.
Great UX writing is not only easily comprehensible, but it also should fit the brand as a whole. Consider your brand personality – by matching the tone users expect from your brand in every piece of copy on your website, you can build brand trust and loyalty.
A full-service design agency can create your dream website, from UX design to UX writing.
Our team goes way beyond designers and developers – we have expert content writers who can jump in and help you write copy that fits your organization’s voice and moves your audiences to action. If you’re ready to dive into your next web design project, we can handle it every step of the way.