July 8, 2019 Micro copy, big impact

By Claire Hielscher

Scrabble letter tiles

Sometimes the smallest words can have the biggest impact (a personal favourite “coffee?”).

Just because a piece of copy is small, doesn’t mean it can’t have a big impact. When we’re talking about digital user experience (UX), the secret to the success of one platform – and the failure of another – can often come down to these small pieces of text.

After all, these powerful phrases are often the ones that direct your users to complete important actions such as ‘add to cart’, ‘send’ or ‘sign up’. So, what exactly is micro copy and how do you master its secrets for your own success?

What is micro copy?

Simply put, micro copy is the small bits of text or copy that help instruct and relieve the concerns of your users. Micro copy can be (amongst other things):

  • instructional text explaining how to use, subscribe or order something
  • a targeted call to action – think ‘sign up now’ or ‘add to bag’
  • onboarding copy that walks users through their first user experience
  • validation, confirmation, password reset and thank you text
  • error page copy eg 404.

You’ve seen this type of copy before – it’s pretty simple, right? The thing is, it isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds. Mastering the power of micro copy can be a much more considered exercise than simply providing next step directions or including a ‘send’ button at the bottom of your contact form. Why is micro copy so important?

Good micro copy can mean the difference between a user choosing your brand over another or pursuing your services at all.

Research into UX and conversion rate optimisation (CRO) has shown that micro copy matters – it can have a major impact on onboarding, conversion and overall customer engagement. While we may assume our users read every part of a piece of content, in reality visitors only scan through about 50–60% of a page.

This average is why your micro copy is so  important. It puts your key points right in front of your reader’s eyes, providing you with more potential leads and conversion boosts – but only if it’s done right.

Writing effective micro copy

Understand your users’ journey

The more you understand your users’ journey, the more accurately you’ll be able to sign-post their way with clear and impactful micro copy.

One of the most important things your micro copy can do is alleviate your users’ concerns and answer their questions. Think about some of these common user questions and issues when strategising your own micro copy:

  • ‘So, what do I need to do first?’ – Does your user need an account to access your service? Do they need to enter a valid credit card for a free trial? Lay out your flow of information logically and simply for your users to follow.
Stan’s clear micro copy lets the user know quickly and easily how to start a free trial.
  • ‘What’s the next step?’ – Take every opportunity to help your users visualise their journey.
Virgin Money provides a step-by-step visual path to follow throughout the process.
  • ‘What will this really cost me?’ – Is your product or service free to register? Are there any unclear prices, delivery fees or hidden processes? Ensure your pricing and T&Cs are crystal clear and any details are clearly sign-posted.
Facebook outlines the ‘It’s free and always will be’ right from the get go.
  • ‘Why isn’t this working?’ – What happens when your user doesn’t enter their details correctly? Do you have a creative 404 error message that could make someone smile, not gripe? Planning your error messages and processes is crucial to a satisfactory user experience.
Creative 404 error messages can brighten a user’s day.
  • ‘Why do you need my personal information?’ – Does your form ask for information the user wouldn’t usually provide? Explain why you’re asking for certain information to alleviate any alarm bells about privacy concerns.
Twitter makes it clear that private information is required only to contact the user.

Make it active

If your micro copy isn’t compelling, it’s unlikely to inspire the action you’re looking for.

Customers have come to your site for a reason, whether it’s to make a purchase or continue learning more about your company. One way to grab their attention (and keep it!) is by using active voice.

One sure fire way to help you stay active is by using verbs wherever you can. Proper use of verbs and active voice will make it easier for your users to understand what you’re offering, and how they buy-in. An active verb construction is something like ‘Add to basket’. This is an example of clear, bold and easy-to-understand micro copy. When used for conversions, active micro copy can offer your user more control over their entire customer experience. Providing clear options for next actions – such as ‘Keep Shopping’ and ‘Checkout’ – can both confirm their original action’s success, and inspire additional interactions throughout your platform.

Alo provides users with gratification that their purchase is ready, along with the option to keep shopping.

Don’t shy away from mini-interactions

Micro copy can also provide opportunities to showcase your brand’s values.

If your brand identifies with values like ‘approachable’, ‘gentle’ and ‘helpful’, your micro copy is the perfect chance to show them off.

When done thoughtfully, micro interactions can offer simple yet effective ways to market yourself to your user as a brand they can trust, or even have fun with. But there’s a thin line between the right amount of on-brand micro interaction and taking it a step too far. Any micro interaction you add shouldn’t take away from the clarity of the message you’re trying to convey. When designing your micro copy for these moments, try and keep anything quirky out of copy that is action orientated.

Once your user has completed an action, they’re more likely to be receptive to a bit of light humour or a branded message.

Knowing when not to brand parts of the experience is also part of strong micro copy. While micro interactions can be fun, they need to reflect the simple and easy user experience you’re trying to provide.

Slack has achieved a perfect balance with their fun and friendly micro interactions.

Flex your micro copy muscle

At Avion Communications, we get a real thrill when great UX and copy meet. If you want to engage your audience with some instructional, clever or impactful micro copy, get in touch with our Melbourne copywriters today.