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Microcopy: How small words can have a huge impact

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Microcopy

Learn how thoughtful microcopy can have a significant effect on UX and increase conversions.

What is Microcopy?

The term microcopy is used to describe a short bit of text on a website or app’s interface that, essentially, helps someone complete a task, whether that’s something to encourage a potential customer to take a trial, a reader to subscribe to your newsletter or to reassure someone about submitting their information to you, for example.

Microcopy should help people using your product or website, it can take many forms:

  • Calls to action
  • 404 error pages
  • Password hints
  • Explain errors
  • Contact form help
  • Instructional tooltips
  • Button copy

Cleverly written microcopy can help direct customers and users, it could be at a critical purchase, enquiry or download moment. Without your instruction and encouragement about what they need to do next, or why, you could easily lose them.

Microcopy should enhance, not make up for bad or confusing designs!

It is also worth remembering that microcopy isn’t just about navigation. It is a great way to subtly add reinforce your company's personality as long as it's used in the right way.

There are so many great examples of this online:

Mailchimp microcopy

Mailchimp have some great microcopy across their site, we particularly wanted to point out this refreshing touch to help you choose and remember your password. Have you ever failed to enter ‘a good-enough’ password multiple times to find a new ‘rule’ each time? Why not stick all the possible errors together like Mailchimp have?

Smashing Mag microcopy

Smashing Magazine have used their tone of voice effectively in their microcopy, notice this tone of voice would not suit all contexts. They have also explained their intentions if you wanted to sign up to the newsletter too.

firstdirect microcopy

Finally, first direct have a super example of using a verb and an enticing phrase to get you to take action. This button could easily have been 'go', 'apply' or 'start' for example, but the words 'choose' and 'gift' in the button are really compelling.

Tips for writing great microcopy

  1. Turn your buttons or next actions into a verb – in place of 'submit' use statements that encourage someone to do something – 'send' or 'show me' for example.
  2. Use straightforward instructions.
  3. Keep phrases short and concise.
  4. Consider your tone of voice – don't use a tone that is too serious for your fun brand, or too fun for a more very serious topic.
  5. Don't alienate readers – passive aggressive microcopy such as 'No, I don't want to see how to make a profitable business' just isn't needed.
  6. Offer explanations in certain circumstances – for example, sharing what you intend to do with people's email addresses, or why you need to ask them for any personal information. Most will feel more comfortable sharing this if they see why you need it.
  7. Add helpful contextual microcopy to alleviate worry – such as 'send test email' rather than 'send, we leave no question over what will happen next in this example.

Go forth and conquer microcopy

Now go and review your site. Look at it with fresh eyes, or even better get someone who has never seen it before to have a look. Is your microcopy working for you?

Get in touch

Give us a call if it’s time to review your site, microcopy and all.

If we've piqued your interest with this one, check out MicrocopyInspirations for some more examples.