The Power of Microcopy

August 19, 2019

It creates better experiences.

But what is microcopy? Hint: It’s not just “small” words. But it is called microcopy for a reason…It’s concise.

Microcopy is well-placed wording that helps visitors to an interface understand how to complete actions. Microcopy might mean small phrases but it has a huge impact on UX. From error pages to form fields, microcopy directs people throughout their user journey, adds a human touch, and builds consumer trust.

How can you take advantage of microcopy? Let’s dive in.

Smooth over friction areas.

Ever tried to quickly complete an online purchase only to find yourself 10 steps later wondering if you’re almost done, halfway through, or nowhere near the end? Chances are you probably got frustrated, hit “X” on that tab, and never went back.

Now imagine how different your experience could have gone with a little microcopy. Instead of being unsure of where you are in the checkout process, a few strategically placed phrases could have served as place markers and provided information as to what’s left for you to complete.

On a form, microcopy can easily let users know why you need their private information. If you’re asking for their phone number, reassure them they won’t be getting any cold calls or spam calls. Microcopy also allows you to explain how you need their information on a form, whether something’s required or optional, and how to resolve issues.

In short, microcopy ensures site visitors don’t abandon a form or their cart because they’re confused or, worse, angry. It smooths over all the areas where that confusion or anger might come in and gently guides users to complete the desired action.

Show off brand personality & build trust.

Microcopy can add a human touch to something that otherwise feels pretty technological. It reminds users that there are, in fact, humans behind the brand who have thought through the user journey. And it can be as simple as a message changing based on the time of day or day of the week. For example, Mailchimp’s messaging changes from “Good Morning” to “Good Afternoon” depending on when you login, while Basecamp’s footer says “Happy Monday!” and so on for each day of the week.

All images from TinyWordsMatter.

These small additions make an interface feel personalized to the user, even when every user sees the same message.

If your brand’s voice tends to be more playful, microcopy provides a great opportunity to up the playfulness. Often, you’ll see a brand using humor to further smooth over those friction areas, such as a funny error page like this one from Tumblr.

It’s an unexpected place to surprise and delight customers and again, remind them there are humans behind the brand.

But, don’t make it too playful that people are confused about what they’re meant to be doing. When writing funny microcopy, try writing out the instructional side of things first before adding in your brand’s personality—humor should be a sidekick to clarity, not in place of it.

Take advantage of conversion opportunities.

If a user stumbles across an area they haven’t interacted with yet, give them something to interact with! Whether it’s an empty cart or an empty note, these “empty” spaces are a prime opportunity to convert visitors. Instead of a standard empty cart, consider how you can encourage users to check out what they might be missing. Or in this case, Slack shows how their users might engage with their personal chatroom. Notice how they also used the opportunity to inject some of that Slack-specific personality in there, as well.

And no microcopy blog would be complete without touching on the most frequently used conversion opportunities: email captures. Like we mentioned before, microcopy can inform users as to why you need their email address and reassure them you won’t be blowing up their inbox with a simple message at the bottom conveying you won’t spam them. A personalized message above the classic “Sign Up” button can also be the key to encouraging on-the-fence users. Just don’t guilt them into signing up with a “No, I don’t like puppies” phrase that we’ve all seen scammy sales sites use!

Want to check out more tiny words with a big impact? Head to TinyWordsMatter!

Cross & Crown

About Cross & Crown

Cross & Crown is a team of creatives who are passionate about solving problems through design and technology, taking what is there and making it better. Based in Chambersburg, PA, we strive to help educate, advocate, and thrive in a digital world.

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