UX copy: the power of copywriting on user experience
24 janvier 2023
Copywriting. Most people know it as a marketing term. You write informative or seductive texts to encourage readers to take a certain action. Often you want to inform or sell a product or service. A nice slogan for your brand, an elegant text on a brochure, or the proud history of a soup brand on its packaging.
There are also other forms of copywriting that do not directly sell something or 'make it more beautiful’ but are product-related. You can write about the latest news from your organisation, write understandable legal terms of an online service (or keep them deliberately incomprehensible), write directions for an event, and so on.
In principle, you can say that every text you write, that supports a product or service, is copywriting.
In this story, UX copy is a fairly new addition, although the concept has been around for a long time — technically from the moment there was text on the first website or application, but of course intention also counts in this. Copywriting is a profession or skill, and you can't immediately argue that all text is automatically copywriting because it's 'on something'.
The focus on UX copy is becoming ever more topical, but what makes it different or more special than traditional copywriting?
What is UX copy?
UX copy can be used in different ways and on different levels, so it is not easy to define in simple terms. What you can say is:
UX copy is at the service of a digital solution.
However, it’s more nuanced than that. UX copy can be divided into roughly two different forms:
Copy for digital content
What is microcopy?
Microcopy is all about the user interface (UI) of a digital product or a digital text that’s related to the functional use and the processes that take place there. Think of buttons, a navigation menu, or a form. What’s written there is often short and to the point (hence micro). An important reason for this is quite simply the space available.
You need microcopy to be able to communicate quickly in (small) actions, and it should also fit into the website design. Simple examples of microcopy that you can find on almost every website are:
On a surface level it seems so simple that it's almost not even worth talking about. Nevertheless, choices are already being made here, and these choices can have the power to give a website or app a certain feeling.
Send a message.
Create a profile.
The first list is not necessarily less clear than the second list. You can argue that the second list feels more human. Addressing users in a human way is almost always preferable. Users feel at ease faster and understand it all just a little better. After all, the language used is more aligned with their experience of the world.
Depending on the type of website, this is a choice that — even if it is on a micro level — will ultimately have an impact on the user experience. How your text 'addresses' people is called tone of voice. It is specifically aimed at creating a certain atmosphere or feeling. Texts are therefore also an important part of your brand experience.
How does your brand address your users and customers? Or from another perspective, which customers and users would you like to appeal to as a brand? This is also part of 'human' writing. All people and target groups are different, so you’ll have to choose how you approach microcopy again.
Will you go for "You will receive your shipment within 1 working day" or "Relax, your package will be there tomorrow afternoon!" ?
Microcopy can have an impact on user behaviour. Just look at the two examples below:
In this example, B adds some extra text to the left side of the buttons, the simple word 'Free'. In practice, this adjustment leads to a positive difference of 12.3% in conversion purely because when ordering the product, the extra benefits (free shipping and returns) were communicated clearly.
The difference above is not only in the words in the button, but also in the context that words were used in. In contrast to the previous example, the 'free' variant surprisingly did not do well at all here. Option A had a conversion rate of 7%, option B a conversion rate of 93%!
The big difference in conversion lies in the step after the button. This follow-up page (still) contains a registration form.
Option A doesn't suggest this, and page two comes as a surprise to those users. That’s a setback, that makes people drop out. With button B your proposal is clear. People click knowing what to expect.
Because in the end it’s always about the end result, and not just about the micro-interaction, this is always the better course. Adding some pleasant, promising words guarantees nothing. That's why testing should always be ongoing.
A minority assumption remains that the percentage of 'extra clicks' can always be directly traced back to differences in microcopy, because these types of tests are not supplemented with personal responses and motivation. It measures how much effect it has on a large scale. It's not a real user test, where you can ask people why they would or wouldn't click, or what they think and feel about it. This does not alter the fact that the differences are clear. Very small nuances can therefore make quite a difference in the behaviour of users or visitors.
Please remember that even in microcopy, you should try not to fall into so-called 'dark patterns' like confirm shaming.
Content is supreme... for 28%
Alongside microcopy there’s also longer texts on websites or apps. Websites contain information, stories, news, experiences, reviews. In some cases that is the core of the product. On a website like Thuisarts, the content is almost 100% informative. So the content is the product.
Users and customers, especially those of digital solutions, often don't really read. A website like Thuisarts is not an exciting book that you sit down and read. You are there for information that you can use to make decisions.
For example: if your child has a 39-degree fever and you want to know whether you should go to the doctor or not, the website visit is not an end in itself, but an intermediate step on your way to achieving another goal. Of all the texts that a user sees, on average only 28% are read.
That's why UX copy revolves around scannable content. You try to offer texts that are useful for the reader. This article on Thuisarts.nl is a good example of this.
Tips to help you write scannable texts:
1. Keep it short and to the point.
2. Start the introduction with a short summary.
3. Use subheadings in the structure of the text.
4. Emphasize important matters with bold or italicised texts.
5. Use bullet points or lists.
6. Keep your paragraphs short.
7. Use numbers instead of text (although this sometimes goes against the official rules of writing).
Follow these tips to help your users find the right information quickly.
Short and to the point doesn’t mean you have to skip details. The emphasis is on efficiency. Can you make your text shorter, without losing feeling or losing the real meaning?
Not: "Before you can respond, you must first create an account."
But: "Respond? Create an account now!"
The same message, but less text and more action focused.
Someone who wants to use a digital product often has to take numerous steps to achieve a certain goal. For example, buying a product online goes like this:
1. Go to the website.
2. Find a product in the range.
3. Put it in your 'shopping cart’.
4. Go to 'checkout' and buy the product.
However, there's a lot more going on between the lines. All of these steps are part of a larger process. In a real store you get confirmations of the progress of that process in all kinds of areas. Through your own senses, but also from input from the staff. For example, you physically pay for the product at the cashier. That is confirmation of the process that you are going through.
At worst, on a website or in an app, the lack of feedback can cost you dearly. It’s at this point that concrete messaging — or messaging — becomes more important. You have to incorporate feedback from a digital solution into the process and try to communicate it in a different way. Again, it often comes down to using sharp UX copy:
There are two important concerns here:
1. Clear confirmation when it goes well:
2. Clear error information if it goes wrong.
If something went well or was successful, let the user know. Seeing the message "Your order has been successful" after you have clicked on a button is an essential part of the process, but also for the user’s peace of mind and security.
This same applies if something goes wrong. "Unfortunately, something went wrong, try again" is just as essential. If you don’t report errors, the user lacks information and is left in a state of uncertainty. Use good UX Copy to communicate the status of the process to the user.
These types of messages are also a great opportunity to highlight your brand values.
You write informative or seductive texts with the aim of persuading readers to take a certain action.
For UX copy that is 100% relevant. On a website or app, you want people to take action, so we often approach UX copy in the same action-oriented and motivating way.
For example, write about the end result, not about the method:
Not: "A wide range of tools to manage your finances."
But: "Get rid of all your debts."
Also, write about the person using the solution, not your product or service:
Not: "The voucher makes it possible to shop in 25 chain stores."
But: "You can shop in 25 chain stores with this voucher."
UX copywriting generates more conversion for your digital solution because it is focused on results for the user. Every user wants to know what they’re getting out of it. So answer this question quickly, briefly, and to the point.
The right digital form
Information, navigation, brand experience. Good use of copy helps the user to deal with your digital solution better and easier and to understand you better. Ultimately, you want users to enjoy frictionless interactions with your website or app. Copywriting for digital solutions can boost your conversion rates if you do it right. The difference is often in very small details and nuance.
It's also worth keeping the digital user in mind when you’re writing web content. Content that’s consumed on digital solutions often focuses on action and next steps when it's not entertainment. UX copywriting as an approach gives you the tools you need to get your message across quickly and concisely and give your brand and message its own identity. A mindful approach to your digital texts delivers tangible benefits.
This article was originally published on Frankwatching.nl
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