The best microcopy, people don’t even notice. I know, it sucks. What a thankless task.
But, in a way, it’s a huge compliment if everyone does what your copy says without noticing. That’s IDEAL.
To flip that, if users stumble because your microcopy is confusing or even trips itself up with tone of voice, you’re done for.
Three places you’ll find microcopy
Micro copy lives where tone of voice strops off to find someone else to bother. It’s instructional, subliminal and SIMPLE.
Read more. Enter password. Need help?
All incredibly important copy that exists only to get someone from A to B as quickly and easily as possible. Micro copy supports your UX design; it doesn’t further your brand story beyond ‘Oh, that was easy!’
1. App copy
An app is not a place for essays. 90% of the copy in an app is going to be micro copy because it’s functional. However, your app is probably a part of the product you’ve made or the community that keeps customers happy, so it’s got to sound like you.
It’s tricky to squeeze tone of voice into a couple of words but mirroring choices you make elsewhere – like contracting words or using colloquial terms – will help.
In this example, Monzo’s chat call to action cutely reassures you that you won’t get bamboozled by a bot, which their future-forward brand might scare you into expecting.
2. Form copy
Fields you need someone to fill in contain micro copy like ‘Name’ and ‘Postcode’. Form copy has got to be the least glamorous of all writing – usually.
The most important thing for form microcopy to do is get people to… wait for it… fill in the form! But it needs rules. It needs grammar, it needs consistency and it potentially needs directive language.
And, just sometimes, it can have a cheeky little bit of tone sprinkled on top (if it won’t get in the way).
3. Buttons and calls to action
You can have a little bit of fun with buttons but I warn thee: test. You need to be sure your ‘Go get it!’ actually makes people click more than ‘Buy now’ or you’re just hurting your conversions.
Transactional copy, which is what we’re doing here, is all about progressing people towards your goal for them. Don’t hold them up with having to figure out what you mean by your smart words. Every second counts in a buying decision.
How to write excellent microcopy
1. Forget 90% of what you know about copy. The bit about it being storytelling and emotive and all that rubbish.
2. Force yourself to use the MINIMUM number of words and characters. The fewer the better, always.
3. Choose the simplest and most expected words possible unless you have very good reason (through testing) not to.
4. Put your whole A to B process in front of a variety of people and identify where users get stuck. If you fancy going all the way, this guy tests websites drunk to make sure everything is easy enough even for an idiot.
Microcopy may be small but it can be mighty. Don’t overlook it.