When it comes to design, most people would immediately link it to visuals and appearances and they’re not entirely wrong. But UX design isn’t that simple, it’s more than just aesthetically pleasing interfaces. There’s only so much your design can convey without any written copy.
Think about it, there’s no point in designing a super cool button when the call-to-action is missing — the user will have no idea of its purpose.
“Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.” — Hamza Yusuf
Though it isn’t a new term, the role microcopy plays in design is something many UX designers need to become more aware of. A few words are all it takes to have an impact on the user’s experience. With just a few words, you can either encourage your users to complete a purchase or drive them away from your product.
Microcopy vs Copy
Microcopy refers to all the little bits of copy that are not content. These short sentences or words tell a user what to do, address user concerns, and provide context to a component that requires a different approach than traditional marketing-oriented copywriting.
The target audience is where the major difference lies. With content marketing, the greater focus is on the customer — their desires, the problems that they wish to solve with your particular product or service.
In contrast, microcopy focuses on the user, who is the same entity, just at a different stage of their digital journey. Microcopy steps in once the customer becomes the user and now needs some help with adequately using the product or service and getting their desired benefit out of it.
Designers = Writers?
Traditionally, microcopy has always been done by the UX designer; maybe with help from the marketing team. Yet writing and language proficiency are not typically something designers are well-versed in. It’s outside the scope of our expertise and responsibilities, and tasking us to come out with stellar copy alongside a great design might lead to burnout or subpar results.
This is why we’re witnessing a rise of a new position and job scope that focuses exclusively on microcopy — the UX writer. Whereas the UX designer focuses on the visual aspects of the design, the UX writer takes care of its linguistic peculiarities.
A UX writer’s job is to help the user have a positive experience while using the product. They need to understand the user’s pain point and behavior, in order to craft engaging microcopy and improve the product’s overall usability.
UX writers are an integral part of the UX team, and they work closely with business development, strategy, marketing, and sales to understand their perspectives and incorporate them into the product experience.
The benefits of microcopy
An effective microcopy seeks to understand and anticipate the user’s expectations. It allows the user to feel like they are having a conversation with the interface. Users desire more than just pretty colors and nice illustrations on their screen, they want to be understood.
We must keep in mind that the copy is often the most human part of the entire interaction with our product. It is the element which allows the product to speak with its users, answering their questions, giving them directions, and prompting them to take action
Below are some key benefits of an effective microcopy:
Removing doubt and confusion
Users drop out of the conversion funnel for all kinds of reasons. I’m not saying that UX writing would solve all your problems but it would definitely help if your users drop out due to the following reasons:
- Ambiguous or confusing messages
- Too many jargons
- Unclear shipping charges
- Not enough information is given about the product
- Uncertainty on how to proceed
Mailchimp does a good job by explicitly telling their users the requirements for their password which prevents them from encountering multiple errors.
This example from Dribbble shows how a few sentences can not only provide context into what the product is about, but also prompt action with a call-to-action button.
When it comes to microcopy, less is more. Keep it simple and straight to the point. WeTransfer’s microcopy is short and concise, yet it clearly explains the benefits of using it.
Foster relationships and connection
Blending emotions into your microcopy creates an energy-filled atmosphere where trust grows and users are more willing to act. It will also add a human element to your product, which could make a difference between a positive and generic experience.
Always remember to be empathetic and use the correct tone at the right time. If an error occurs or the user needs help, using the wrong words could backfire and leave a negative impression on the user.
Muzzle does a great job of being fun and delightful by showing a list of notification messages with cheeky content to illustrate their point and show the benefit of their feature — blocking notifications from your screen.
Microcopy provides brands with further opportunities to convey personality. Dollar Shave Club, which is known for its sarcastic and humorous tone of voice, adds extra bullet-points to product descriptions purely for entertainment purposes.
Builds trust and confidence
Digital products tend to raise some inherent concerns, such as security and privacy. If a product isn’t transparent, it may cause users to hesitate, think twice, and ultimately abandon it. From the user’s point of view, these are some of the questions they might ask themselves — can be extracted through user research:
- Why are you asking for my phone number?
- Will you spam me with marketing emails?
- Why do you need my credit card when it’s free?
- What do I have to do to not get charged?
- Is this process secure?
Microcopy can be used to respond to those questions, giving users the confidence they need to see the process through to completion.
Linkedin builds trust by explaining why it requires the user’s credit card for a free trial — eliminating any doubt or fears that the user will be charged for it. It’s better to be upfront to your user, especially if you require them to give you confidential information; or if payment is part of the process.
“Small words can have a significant impact”
The benefits of effective UX microcopy are substantial; increased user engagement, brand loyalty, trust, and frictionless product experiences. When used correctly, good microcopy can help your product stand out in a highly competitive market.