Microcopy is tricky to write. Those small bits of app copy need to be clear, concise and useful all at once. They need to provide reassurance and anticipate the user’s next move. They should communicate your organisation’s personality throughout. No mean feat when your word count is tiny!
But writing microcopy needn’t be a macro problem. You just need to approach it a little differently than regular copy. Here are our best tips and tricks for writing seamless text for your apps.
Let the audience set the tone
By this point, you should have a pretty good idea of who your target user is. And whether they’re a teenage boy or a businesswoman, you’re going to have to tailor your tone and vocabulary to fit.
When you’re producing your copy, try to imagine you’re addressing that person at every stage. If you can, interview your demographic and make note of what terminology they use. Test your copy out on them to make sure it sounds authentic.
Stick to the right terms
A consistent writing style will build familiarity, establish your identity and put your users at ease.
To avoid confusion, you should always use the same terminology for the features, functions and places in your app. If you call a page the ‘account page’ in one instance, don’t call it the ‘home page’ elsewhere. And it doesn’t stop there – the language you use should be consistent across your website and marketing materials too, giving the user a seamless experience.
Keep it brief
Even if you think your first draft is pretty neat, it can be neater. In-app space is usually limited and you don’t want to waste your users’ time by making them read overly wordy copy.
Look at ways of reducing your word count without impacting the meaning, such as using contractions and simplifying your sentence structure to reduce volume. For example, ‘On the next screen, you will find a button that you need to tap’ becomes ‘Tap the button on the next screen’.
If you can make the next step clear through design elements alone – without having to use text to spell it out – all the better.
Skip the sales speak
If a user has downloaded your app, they’ve already bought into your idea. Now is your opportunity to show everything your product can do, rather than push upgrades or a paid version.
Focus on making your copy as helpful as possible – your goal is to lessen any fears your user might have about committing and prove that your product will be useful to them. Only try to upsell when a pattern of use has been established or a goal has been met.
Talk directly to the user
Using an app is usually a one-on-one experience, so don’t treat your user like a stranger. If you’ve asked for their name, use it. If you know what they’re trying to achieve with your app, personalise instructions to make them more useful. Even if you don’t collect this info, address them as ‘you’ rather than ‘user’, ‘player’ or ‘customer’.
If you need to email a user or send them a push notification, make sure the personalisation is carried over outside of the app so they feel valued.
Consider the context
Your tone of voice might be light-hearted and silly, but if you’re cracking jokes when the user’s having difficulties, they’re only going to get more annoyed. A failed save notification is not the place to try out a daft pun!
Dial back the humour when you’re asking for personal information, processing a transaction or giving an error message. Similarly, be aware of what action the user has just completed or is about to complete – if you’re going to ask for banking information on the next screen, make sure your copy describes precisely what is about to happen.
Unless your app is geared towards a seriously techy audience, you’ll need to adjust the terms you usually use to be more user-friendly. If your screen says ‘Tap on the tooltips icon for help’, can you be sure your audience will know what a tooltip is?
Try to imagine yourself in the user’s shoes and consider what language they might use. For example, it may be clearer for your user if you write ‘Tap on the question mark icon’ instead. Getting these details right the first time around will save you a lot of support calls down the line.
People with disabilities are your users too. Consider how your onscreen copy will come across when read by a screen-reader. Does it rely on a visual cue to make sense? Could you make it clearer what the user should be doing at each stage?
Your instructions may not be as obvious as you think, and improving accessibility for one group of people will likely improve the experience for everyone.
… and always be adaptable!
If your app gets a redesign or new functionality, remember to check over your copy to ensure it’s still fit for purpose.
Your words are there to help you achieve an objective, so be open to experimenting and trimming copy as needed. If your users aren’t making purchases, try making your call-to-action more persuasive. If they’re getting stuck in specific places, try tweaking the copy to see if it helps.
Spread the word
Need more advice? Contact us today for help getting your writing app-ready.