Copywriting is… Well it’s a lot of things. And maybe it’s a mistake to define it in one sentence, or one blog post. For the purposes of web design, copywriting is an integral part of the User Interface. And it’s not to be taken lightly.
In a “less is more”-trending design realm paired with an attention deficit readership, writers and designers have to make every word count just as much as anything else. But by all means, don’t get intimidated. Copy should read like you didn’t strain over a thesaurus writing it.
We’ve set out six reasons why your site’s copy needs to be not only attention grabbing, but methodical as well.
1. It’s strategic and incites action
Persuasive copy is your call for action, whether it’s obvious or not. In marketing and journalism it’s all about captivating the reader’s attention and keeping it. Conversion is key. Like a well-choreographed firework display, you don’t launch every flash-powder-packed rocket at once, it’s an art. But, at the same time, you know the whole display is not to be missed.
How do you do this? Your writing must be a lot of things: it must be clear, succinct and inspiring, of course, but you also have to take into consideration the “show, don’t tell” idiom. What does the product or service do for the user? (as an end-result) What are the benefits? (not elaborate features, necessarily) What problems does it solve? (address the objections.) and, most importantly, Why should the user/reader care? (Incentive. And urgency if you’ve got it.)
2. It sets the tone as a brand identity
Think of yourself as a storyteller, a narrative brand ambassador if you will. It has become trendy to share your company’s boot-strapped heritage and talk up your roots. Customers and users love to relate to their favorite brands and be loyal to products they have developed a trust for.
For example, even big-box companies like Wal-Mart and Target are downsizing into more accessible mom-and-pop-like “Neighborhood Markets”. And brands like Abercrombie and Fitch and Ralph Lauren have invested greatly in crafting a heritage—when you buy a Ralph Lauren cable knit sweater, you’re buying a symbol of modern ambition, a weekend getaway at Martha’s Vineyard.
There’s always a story to tell, so own it.
3. It makes you accessible
Use the terminology your users are familiar with—the proven keywords resonating with your target audience. But don’t get too technical. You’re not writing for a medical journal and nobody’s impressed with your grad-school dialect or corporate speak.
For more on this subject: ConversationAgent.com: Is Your Copy Stuck in the Ipsum Generator? (Some of their examples of important-sounding pronouncements: “Objectively reintermediate integrated convergence for backend opportunities. Interactively synthesize virtual paradigms through global intellectual capital.”)
4. It improves the user experience
What does the user need to know? It’s hard to say (let alone write) when you are so invested in a project. I mean to you, everything is important, right? There’s a reason curators create gallery experiences of artwork and not the artists who produced it. You have to get out of your head and think like the user (who doesn’t know anything about your product and has a low attention span).
So when writing even navigation copy, notification alerts, or scripts explaining your product to prospective users: make your writing thoughtful and accessible.
5. It differs from print to desktop to mobile
Writing for the web is very different from writing for print. It’s consumed differently, first of all (think of how it easy it is to scroll around to skim through an article and click off to somewhere else: you can’t do that with a book, newspaper or magazine). Hierarchy is much more deliberate and concise online.
And then there’s mobile: Think of a mobile screen as a keyhole view of a website. You have even less time to gain the reader’s attention.
Useit.com explains the difference between writing for mobile vs. desktop:
- Mobile screens are much smaller: reading through a peephole increases cognitive load and makes it about twice as hard to understand text on a mobile device as on a desktop. Short-term memory is weak, so the more users have to remember after it scrolls off the screen the worse they’ll do.
- Mobile users are even more rushed than desktop users because of the mobile setting.
6. It’s in the tiniest of the details
Should this button say “Join now” or “Try it free for 60 days?” How will the user be prompted when they forget to type in their credit card’s expiration date? This is all copywriting, or more to the point: microcopy. But it’s also editing: how can anyone take you seriously if distracting run-on sentences, glaring incomplete thoughts and misspellings raise the first eyebrows?
For more on the subject: MarketingExperiments.com: Optimizing Copy: The 7 most common copywriting mistakes we see marketers make.