Have you ever been to a restaurant, museum or shopping mall and needed to use the bathroom? You begin by looking up and around for any sort of signage. You halt the conversation and break away from your loved ones. You try to spot an employee, or anyone wearing a solid color shirt who looks vaguely helpful.
You see an “employees only” sign, that might hold what you’re looking for, you’ll save that as a last resort.
Finally, it shows itself. A great big plastic board with BATHROOM painted in all capital letters as if it were calling your name. Sensations of relief and comfort wash over you; you’re no longer struggling to complete what seems like a pretty basic task.
Now have you ever wondered, gosh, why don’t places just put up more clear, concise and eye-grabbing signage? Or in an ideal world, paint those color-coded lines on the floor that take you to any location your heart desires with little-to-no effort?
Now imagine you’re looking for the bathroom on a 6-inch screen, and instead of walking around, asking folks questions, all you can do is tap on things with your thumb. You’d want that bathroom door to be pretty darn upfront with itself.
This is the basic idea behind microcopy.
"Click Here." "Read More." "I’m Feeling Lucky."
Microcopy is any short bit of text on a website or app. It's meant to provide context, give instruction, or address what you might be thinking as you navigate a digital screen.
There are tons of different instances of microcopy on any given site, like:
If your website is the restaurant, your microcopy should be your flashing neon bathroom sign (Not literally of course). If your page is expertly designed then you can get away with microcopy on the subtle side, like Google has on its search page. It works, because there’s nothing else drawing your attention.
So how is this relevant to you?
You want current and potential members to visit your website and sign up for memberships, subscribe to your newsletter, look at your different pages and watch your videos.
While good microcopy doesn’t directly equal an engaged user, bad microcopy certainly increases the risk of someone having a bad experience on your site. A bad user experience discourages people from exploring your content and, with the attention span of the average user these days, may cause them to abandon your site altogether.
The best way to gain new members and retain current ones, is to knock down any barriers on their path to enjoying your services. According to web UX-pert Tommy Walker, optimizing your microcopy doesn’t just remove challenges, it encourages a massive uptick in conversions.
It’s not wrong, it just increases the chances of someone misunderstanding what you’re trying to say.
You can be cute, like a law firm’s “contact us” button reading as “Lawyer Up” might be a clever and engaging way to communicate their brand to their audience. But go too far in that direction and you run the risk of your user not knowing the expression, and losing them altogether when they can’t find a traditional “contact us” call to action.
If you walked up to two doors in a restaurant, you might take pause, and look for the little stick figure with stick legs or the one with a triangle for a lower half. Archaic? Maybe, but our brains are trained to go with what we know.
If you want to place your “contact us” email address on a page, make it make sense! Be careful not to drop it in the footer with no surrounding clues. Your audience expects a dash of microcopy indicating who’s on the other end of that address and ideally, a call to action asking them to email about a specific subject like “For more information” or “To request a quote.”
The worst way to treat a user is to have something go wrong, without explaining why. If they’re entering information into a form and they mess up a zip code, an error message should pop up with a few words to indicate what went wrong, and how they should fix it. “Not all required fields were completed” is vague and forces them to work to make your site work, and the dreaded “an error has occurred” with no further context borders on aggravating.
Being clear doesn't mean you have to be plain.
Contact us is fine, “let’s chat” is even better! Learn UI Design’s blog has a great list of better signup form tips, and their point about using microcopy to expose value in tip #7 has directed its way into our hearts.
“Click here to begin the process of searching publicly accessible internet pages for instances of your choice keywords” is a long-winded way of saying “Google Search.” Your audience will appreciate you keeping it short and sweet.
“Become a member” is a helpful and inviting call to action that could live in a sidebar on a products page, a button underneath a company profile or at the bottom of a video. Every word in that sentence adds something new and helpful for the user.
You worked so hard to build a successful brand, don’t stop now! There’s virtually limitless opportunity to remind your audience why they took a liking to you in the first place.
Australian toilet paper company Who Gives A Crap donates 50% of their profit to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. The company’s homepage could be boring, but the down-under do-gooders built their brand on toilet humor, so they wrote it into their website as a natural extension of their brand that surprises, delights and informs their audience.
We especially like the double-meaning of “Our feel-good products.”
Think: As a user, what could I possibly be looking to accomplish by coming to this site? Then, try to accomplish that objective purely by using what you see on the screen. When you're done, evaluate your experience.
Good microcopy directs users from point A to point B while answering any questions or concerns along the way. The best microcopy anticipates and gets in front of challenging thoughts before the user thinks about them. A few examples:
We particularly appreciate search bar suggestions, like how Spotify invites users to search not only a song title but an artist or a podcast too. This lets users know what sort of keywords they can search to find their tunes, but it’s also Spotify’s way of saying, “yes, we stream podcasts as well!"
An effective way to incorporate this in your association's platform is by adding simple prompts like “Search for videos” or “Try ‘Non-Dues Revenue,” to your search bar. These placeholders paint a clear picture for your user and when they’re done right, encourage users to check out content relevant to them that they might not have expected you to provide.
Once your microcopy is written and your platform is ready to use, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s ready to be used by other people. If you’ve ever worked on a single project long enough, you know that elements start to blend together over time. The complex pathways you created might make sense to you, but someone unfamiliar with the thought processes of the person who designed everything might find themselves quickly lost.
Once you have a ready-to-use site, it's always a good idea to do a private showing or a soft launch. Send it to a few trusted members, friends, colleagues, anyone who has no pre-existing knowledge and ask them to accomplish an objective like learning about membership benefits or signing up for a webinar — any desired audience outcome you prioritize. Do they find it easy to navigate? Are they getting lost anywhere? Do they enjoy using the platform and reading the copy? These are all examples of questions you can use to discover any holes in your path or pieces you might want to rework before finalization.
To learn all the other ways we optimize your platform to maximize revenue, set up a call or meeting with our web team by hitting the button below.