The visual design of a product is one of the main factors in affecting user experience, of that there is no doubt. Yet if we delve deeper into this subject, more and more experts and designers are turning into the techniques of copywriting as a way to influence user experience.
What most people outside the design space do not realise is that there is an overlap between UX and copywriting. Design and language are the two most important elements on a web page. Both have the ability to inform, guide and provide solutions to the user. One compliments the other.
In this article, I am going to expand on the copywriting techniques that will improve user experience on your website, landing page, email or newsletter. Ultimately this will drive sales and provide increased value.
Decide on the user
True copywriting starts before any words have been committed to paper. The first stage of the process is taking the time to figure out who will be the ideal user of the product. There will be many variations of users eventually, yet only one will finish the task that you want them to finish, also known as ‘buying your product’. This is what makes this user ‘ideal’.
Figuring out who you are talking to with your copy is the first stage of the battle. There are many factors to consider such as age, gender, affluence and more. Once you decide, you are more able to focus your copywriting to their needs.
Once an ideal user has been decided upon, it is important to empathise with them. You need to understand what makes them tick. Leveraging empathy is a powerful tool in creating great copywriting that makes a connection with the user. The goal is to make the user feel like the words were written just for them. They should feel comforted and happy after reading.
Value first, persuasion second
A key rule in copywriting is that if you provide value to the user through focused information initially, there is an increased chance that sales will follow after. Providing information that is already known is no good. Give the user what they are there for. Then when the value has been provided, persuade the visitor to take action. This gives a more balanced feeling to the relationship between business and customer.
Voice & tone
Copywriting aimed at improving user experience should be done using primarily the second person. Use of the personal pronoun ‘you’ when consulting the reader is vital in making them feel more involved in the product.
The tone of the copywriting needs to accurately represent the brand. It helps convey personality. It should also be consistent throughout all copy for your product. An inconsistent tone creates doubt and unfamiliarity in the user.
The complexity of the language you chose to talk to the user should not be too advance as it makes the user feel alienated and at worst, unintelligent. The average reading age in the west is around the same as a 9-year old. This is a good age to aim for when assessing your copy.
The length of the sentences you employ should not be overlong. Short sharp sentences work best and help keep the reader engaged. Sentences connected by many commas and lists are best avoided. Make proper use of headings and subheadings for clarity and easy skimming. Everyone reads differently on a web page when compared to a novel. They employ scanning and skimming before taking action. This means that information that is separated into bite-size chunks using subheadings works best.
It may not seem obvious at first but textual information on a website should have a natural flow. Navigation from page to page should be logical. If there call to action that says ‘sign up here’, the linked page should be a signup form. If it is anything else the flow becomes unnatural and the user experience is negatively affected. As well as navigational flows there are also ‘on-page’ flows. For example, landing pages have a headline that engages, punchy introductions, product descriptions etc. It would not be sensible to have the pricing of your product at the top of the page before the headline, or the subheadings before the introduction.
Do not write for SEO alone
One of the easiest traps to fall into when starting out in copywriting is to write for SEO and not the user. It is very obvious when this is that case as the copy has stunned sentences, many repeating keywords and unnatural phrases. SEO writing contradicts most of the aforementioned rules about clarity and flow and will only make the user feel untrusting of your product or brand, diminishing the experience.
That is not to say that SEO is not important because it is. Yet it should never be prioritised over the user. Search engines like high-value content more than they like over-optimised content. The more value a webpage or copy, the more engaging it will be more comment it as more shares it receives. All this goes towards a higher placing on Google’s first page.
Test, adapt, iterate
Just like in UX design, it is vital to employ user testing. Without feedback from users, the performance of any copy you write is at best a guess. Feedback data will inform you how well the copy coverts; if the message is clear and if it will inform any changes you may need to make. It will show you if the flow of the words and information on the product direct the user to the right places.
Going forward, it is important that the copywriting of a product works in tandem with its design to create high-value experiences for the user. Best practices in both fields should be employed from the start of a project and work alongside each other, not separately. The result will be a more focused brand and coherent tone that converts.