20. 02. 2020

Microcopy – Small texts with big impact

For a long time they had the sovereignty of communication, but now, especially in the digital world, they are giving way to large-scale image content and UI elements: texts. The interaction between UI and text is important to ensure a pleasant user experience. As language shapes relationships between humans so it shapes the relationship between man and machine. Language builds trust, reduces estrangement, but when used carelessly it can lead to the end of a relationship. Surely you can at least remember one situation caught emotionally upset or even offended in front of a screen.

The text contained in digital products is called microcopy. As already implicated by the name the texts should be short but concise. They should guide users through the app, motivate them to act and support them in doing so. Users will not even recognize microcopy, when it is well written, just like any good UX module. It adapts itself to the circumstances of the user story in voice and tonality. For example, within the first completed milestone in an app it sounds extremely euphoric and, in case of an error message, reassuring and helpful.

The exact voice and tone are determined in the best case by an already existing brand character or a previously defined persona. Because a brand is not only defined by its visual appearance but also through its communication with users. Depending with whom you are talking defines the kind of conversation style: for example, if language should address experts or amateurs. If the choice of voice or tone is misused, this can quickly ruin the reputation of the product or the entire brand. Moreover, an inconsistent style of communication can cause damage and lead through confusion and frustration of your user. Consistency also includes already introduced terms that should not be arbitrarily renamed within the user journey; for example, a login would always be a login and not suddenly a sing up.

Once the right word is in the right place, in many cases this has a measurable effect on the user experience. An example delivered by a call-to-action: If it is precisely described that the trial month costs me nothing and I do not have to enter any payment details, I will be more likely to follow the call-to-action than without this information. Especially by pointing out the sensitive payment data that is not needed, I can exclude sudden debit from my bank account due to an unwanted subscription. These subtle differences, such as response rates, can be examined by case-specific A-B tests and validate the effectiveness of the microcopy.

UX writers are the experts for formulating and iterating microcopy. In collaboration with the teams from design, marketing and development they make it possible to create user-centered products right down to the last detail.

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by Vanessa Wälzer
Digital Experience Design


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