Have you ever willingly provided information to someone you just met? I’ve always been hesitant when it comes to giving out my information and signing up for something in person - this includes rewards programs and giving you my date of birth for a birthday treat. This all changed when I had a great experience with a membership staff at my local gym that influenced me to sign up for a membership on the spot. She was engaging, spoke in a calm matter, was not overly chatty, and truly listened to me. Sure, I could’ve signed up online or continued to take advantage of the free guest pass but there was something about the way she spoke to me that made me want to give her my credit card, address, first and last name AND even my date of birth. I thought wow, how can I take this experience and apply it to UX copywriting?
One of the challenges that I have faced in the past as a UX designer has been influencing a user to provide their information through my designs. How many of you hit ‘back’ or ‘exit’ once you are prompted to enter your contact information to be contacted by a representative? I know I am guilty of this. These short messages on an interface that you encounter are called microcopy. Examples of microcopy include short sentences, a word, or an error message that you see when using a product. While the design of the UI also plays a vital role, copy is a huge part of the user experience. Words are key to bringing a conversation to life.
Just like my conversation with the employee at my gym, microcopy needs to be clear, concise, and transparent. In order to engage in a conversation, you must first empathize with the user. When using microcopy to ask a user for their information, first inform them why that information is needed and what will be done with that information. Now let’s take a look at an example of bad microcopy and good microcopy in a multi-step conversational flow:
As you can see, the user has arrived at their final step and is asked to provide their payment information for a free trial. As a user, I would be expecting to sign up for a free trial without having to input my payment information. This unexpected step would deter me from signing up for this trial unless I was given more context as to what will be done with my credit card number or if/when I would be getting charged. Transparency is key when creating copy that requests financial information.
While transparency plays an important role in conversational microcopy, engaging and empathizing are also as essential. Just like meeting someone new for the first time, you find out their name and ask questions to get to know them a bit more. Once you learn more about the user, you uncover what brought them to your product and how you can help them. Providing extra context while keeping copy short builds trust and makes the user feel a closer connection to the brand.
Just like having consistency in your designs, consistency in your copy is just as important. This helps maintain your brand’s tone and voice. What is consistent visual design without consistent copy throughout your product? I have been fortunate enough to apply and expand my knowledge on product design here at Perpetual and this included learning that while maintaining consistent copy is great, you should also ensure grammar and punctuation contain no errors. As a user, it would be difficult to trust a product if it contained grammatical errors when asking me for my personal information. This is so obvious, but is surprisingly often overlooked. If you are UX copywriting and and you rely on spell check such as myself, I recommend looking into the Spell Check plugin for Sketch.
Tone of voice (eg funny, friendly), conversational interfaces, use of emojis and images are other tactics you can employ in using micro-copy to your advantage in creating good conversational interfaces. These various elements engage the user and give your product personality. One of the top UX trends of 2019 was making a form-page feel like a conversation. Lemonade has successfully made signing up for insurance coverage feel like having a conversation with a real person. Different flows are created based on the input of users which gives them a sense of empathy. Each option is accompanied by a representative icon providing visualization for the user and clarity on their selection. As you can see in the image below, the light and inviting microcopy is consistent with the iconography used.
Microcopy is not just copy but also a part of the design itself. Working with users and stakeholders has taught me that although you can create a visually appealing product, the experience will not be complete without good copy. The iterations I have done after receiving feedback for each of my deliverables have not only been visual design related but on the copy I used as well.
Analyzing the conversations I have with others on a daily basis has helped me to become more mindful when creating conversational UX copy while maintaining a client’s brand tone and voice. Next time you find yourself signing up for an account online or entering your payment information, think to yourself - how much is the copy influencing your decision?
-Jackie Chan is a UX Designer at Perpetual