Microcopy comes down to 4 key factors.

4 Simple Guidelines For Good Microcopy

Posted on June 1st, 2017 by Elizabeth

What is Microcopy?

If building a website is like building a house, the web designer would be the architect. The programmers would be the construction workers. And the copywriters would be the interior designers. But when those interior designers go the extra mile to make sure guests (and yourself) will feel as comfortable as possible inside your new home, that’s what we’d call a website’s Microcopy.

Microcopy is the fine-tuning of words on your website’s labels, forms, error messages, and other bite-sized chunks of text. It’s how we perfect the user experience and make sure to address any worries a user might have on his way to conversion. They’re short and targeted pieces of copy that rely completely on context. This article will give you the guidelines you need to create effective Microcopy.

Nuance in Copywriting

What you ask and how you ask it could be the difference between a click-through or a bounce. If you need the user’s phone number, how do you ask for it without them fearing an onslaught of spam in the future? If you want your users to sign up before a conversion is completed, how do you make it feel unforced through text?

Microcopy is peak copywriting in that it delves into the psychology of the user and figures out ways to remove a user’s worries. It anticipates them and avoids them. This type of copy requires a soft touch, not a sledgehammer. Good Microcopy builds trust in your brand and informs the user’s every action. It displays your brand’s personality and, most importantly, aids in conversion.

The Guidelines of Microcopy

There are no set rules for Microcopy. There are only guidelines. Even those, depending on your audience and intentions, can be bent and broken while still being effective. However, the following guidelines are solid short-hands for writing Microcopy in general.

Keep it clear:

Working with small chunks of text, sometimes no more than a single word, might feel constrictive at first. In actuality, it merely limits the possibilities. Having fewer possibilities makes it easier for you to choose the most effective one.

Keep your messages short and to the point. A button should tell the user exactly what it will do, and an error message should always explain to the user what went wrong and how they can fix it. Being concise gives people a reason to commit to a call-to-action or a section of a form. As this study by the Baymard Institute shows, you need to let your users know why you’re asking what you’re asking. If they don’t understand why you’re requesting certain information, they’ll become suspicious. When in doubt, spell it out.

Keep it personable:

In the context of a website, text is the mouthpiece of your brand. Don’t throw away the opportunity of reinforcing this in your Microcopy. Your brand’s personality should ensure maximum engagement from your target audience.

Using industry jargon might scare off users, so keep the tone appropriate. For instance, when you’re dealing with youths, it’s good to reassure them through the tone of your copy by being lighthearted or maybe even edgy. Make your users feel like you’re in this together, and you’re there with them every step of the way.

Keep it consistent:

If you have assigned your brand a personality, stick with that personality. Every piece of Microcopy should conform to the tone set. Even error messages, post-sign up messages or form instructions. You’re writing for your audience at all times. Keeping your brand and users in mind will help your copy stay consistent. An inconsistent piece of copy can ruin a user experience in a second.

Test it:

Microcopy is an art, not a science. Only by constantly adjusting your copy through A/B testing can you increase your benefits. You can test the impact by looking at your stats to see where the pain points of your website are. What page do users reach before they leave? Are they not pressing a button you want them to press?

If the conversion rates aren’t where you want them to be, try a different copy. A minor change like switching the words on a button from ‘Next Page’ to ‘Review Order’ can increase follow-through rates substantially. Adjust and test to streamline your copy to perfection.

The Importance of Microcopy

The user experience is contingent on the many elements that make up your website. The design, color scheme, headlines, content, reactivity and so much more. Microcopy is just one of the many parts you need to fine-tune for optimal performance. But it’s no doubt an important one. At many points, it will be the sole interaction with your users so you need to make every word count. Next time you take a look at your web page keep this in mind. The devil’s in the details.