Each morning I open up messaging app Slack and wait for my daily compliment as it loads. Today it told me how nice I looked. Yes, I realise it’s not a real person, but hey, these days I’ll take what compliments I can get. And as technology continues its assault on the old attention span, giving consideration to small details that can enhance a user’s experience is a smart move, for any brand. 

It’s the little things

What Slack demonstrates is that its product designers have thought about the whole experience. Even the microcopy, so often the sad, neglected, middle child of the UX design process.  

For those of you thinking, ‘Um, what’s microcopy?’, it’s the small pieces of instructional copy – the button labels, form fields, error messages, etc. that guide you through websites and apps; the written signposts that tell you what to do and where to go next. Done well, microcopy can make the user experience more memorable, encourage referrals and increase sales. Done badly and it will confuse, annoy and deter repeat visits.   

Functional microcopy is, well, fine. It’s there to inform and to influence how people behave on your site. So if they’re getting through the intended journey then it’s doing its job. But there’s a powerful secondary reason to give more consideration to microcopy: It can influence what people feel at that moment, and in turn, how they feel about your brand. 

Some brands are nailing it

Here’s an error message, from the aforementioned Slack:

Microcopy: Slack error message

So just when I’m about to lose my shit, I don’t, because Slack explains the problem in a way that is funny. And human.

 

Here are the release notes from a recent app update by Medium:

Great example of microcopy from Medium

Here Medium demonstrates the power microcopy has to surprise and delight. When well-crafted microcopy appears in the places people don’t expect it, the brand’s personality shines.

 

Speaking of which, here’s a completely on-brand 404 error page from SCB Motorcycles:

Best example of microcopy Salt City Builds 404 page

All I want to do now is buy a big-ass motorbike and get out on the open road. Okay, there are a few things stopping me: job, husband, child, and lack of motorbike licence. But the cool thing is I immediately forget there’s a broken link – and I’m not completely pissed off about it.

 

Shutterstock also nail their 404 page:

 Best practice microcopy: Shutterstock 404 page

Proving, as is their job, there’s a perfect image for everything.

 

This post-sale message is from TransferWise:

Mircocopy TransferWise

See? Attention to detail, right up to the end. And since they asked me to be a free brand ambassador for them in such a charming way, I just might.

 

Check out this sign-up form from ASOS:

Form microcopy: ASOS sign up form 

 

So even filling in a form can be easy, helpful and conversational at the same time. Plus, it promises me a present – a great carrot to get me complete the funnel in full.

Time to sweat the small stuff

Look at the microcopy on your own site or app. Consider what you can do to increase engagement and brand affinity. Play around with it, A/B test where you can. Obviously it’s brand, audience and task-dependent. Nobody wants to be distracted by top bants when all they are trying to do is book a smear test or get a car insurance quote. If in doubt, straightforward is best.

However, if your brand does have a personality, you should inject it into every piece of your comms. Otherwise you’re missing great opportunities to win over customers at every stage of their interaction with you. If people enjoy their time with your brand, they’ll come back. Plus, writing microcopy is really fun.

So remember, every piece of microcopy is a chance to charm customers. Keep it simple. Be human. Don’t try too hard. Have fun.

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