The Power of Microcopy

The Power of Microcopy

Topics: UX

Imagine visiting a large zoo on a Saturday afternoon. The sun is shining, the paths are open, and you’re ready to see a tiger, polar bear, and penguin. But, as you gaze around, you realize that there are no signs. No overhead speakers announcing any directions. No maps positioned at the entrance.

You want to buy a drink — but can’t find any signs indicating where a food station is and can’t see one from where you’re standing. You’d like to order extra tickets for your friends, but alas, the counter you’ve approached has no information about tickets or where to go next.

There are exhibits all around — and exciting experiences you’re eager to have. Yet, you can’t find your way because you have no way to begin exploring the possibilities. So you leave.

You were ready for the experience. It was not ready for you.

This would never happen, right? A zoo would never open without clear directions, maps and arrows pointing to each exhibit, and customer information about where to find water, snacks, and restrooms. 

But lots of websites launch in just this way: Lacking the seamless, streamlined language that will take customers from page to page, or product to product, without friction.

Microcopy makes experiences ready for users, providing them with contextual clues, easy-to-follow instructions, and guiding language that helps them navigate sites without friction. When done right, it’s the result of collaborative, clever engagements between UX, content strategy, and copywriting.

So, what is microcopy?

Microcopy is the informative, actionable bits of copy that crop up all over web experiences. It’s the two or three words on a call-to-action button, the short page headline that lets you know you’ve reached a page in error, or the text on a pop-up form that instructs you on your next steps toward a purchase. 

In other words, it’s short, instructive copy that guides users through their experiences with your brand — and makes the journey enjoyable.

Good microcopy is user-centric.

Because microcopy guides users through online experiences, it often requires collaboration and input from both content writers and UX experts. Working together, they can come up with streamlined ways to move customers through interactions — and avoid points of friction that can lead to cart abandonment, error messages, and other disappointing interactions. 

While all microcopy should be focused on the user it is directing, there are a few key places to focus your tone. Use polite, humane microcopy across the following kinds of interactions to take them from transactional to conversational. 

  • Any time you ask for personal information, like an email address. Give your user context: Why do you need this information? What’s the value to them in sharing it with you? 
  • Every time you use a call-to-action button. “Learn More” is common button copy, but does it always fit the context of the page? How can your button be more interesting?
  • At the top of forms or other processes where you’re collecting details like a user’s home address or credit card number. Provide detail about how you keep information secure and give them links or other resources where they can learn more about your privacy policies.

Put brand voice into every micro-moment.

Just because it’s informative and straightforward doesn’t mean microcopy has to be boring. Many brands have started to learn that they can use microcopy to carry their brand voice into every little bit of the customer experience. From friendlier form copy to unexpected humor on buttons or pop-up windows, microcopy can turn micro-moments with your brand into memorable experiences.

Take a look at your brand’s guidelines for voice and tone. Do they say anything about microcopy? If not, consider bringing your creative and UX teams together to discuss ways to make your microcopy a thoughtful part of the experiences you build. It has the chance to make the customer journey smoother — and keep customers coming back for more.

At Axis41, A Merkle Company, our teams work together to focus on the details and make every customer experience shine. This helps us ensure that we make the most out of every opportunity — even the micro ones.