What Is Microcopy? How To Make a Big Impact in Fewer Words

You interact with hundreds of instances of microcopy every day.

Not convinced?

Open a new tab on your browser. You can see a search bar with a placeholder text, right. That’s a form of a microcopy.

These tiny bits of information can make the difference between an online user experience that facilitates a customer and a user experience that pushes a customer away.

Microcopy guides a user, provides context, conveys personality and builds trust. But, how do you choose your words in the limited space?

We are here to guide you.

Learn what makes a microcopy successful. Read through the tips and associated examples to craft your own small but mighty moments of interaction in no time.

Microcopy 101

How To Craft Effective Microcopy

1. Meet Customers’ Needs

2. Provide Further Context

3. Build Trust

4. Invite Engagement

Final Thoughts: What Is Microcopy? 4 Tips To Improve Your UX

Microcopy 101

Microcopy refers to the short snippets of text that improve the usability of your website, app or any other digital interface. Similar to longer-form copies like landing pages, the goal of microcopy is to inspire action and guide a user in his journey.

Hulu’s homepage featuring a start your free trial button
Screenshot

Hulu’s homepage is an excellent example of microcopy at work. The user immediately understands Hulu’s purpose and the value proposition — thousands of shows and movies to choose from and watch. The word free in the call-to-action button further entices the user to click through.

Microcopy occurs almost everywhere on a modern website in the form of:

  • Button text
  • Calls to action (CTAs)
  • Placeholder text in forms
  • Informational pop-up text
  • Error messages

How To Craft Effective Microcopy

What goes into the making of a great microcopy? Let’s look at a few tips that you can keep in mind. The best microcopy should: 

1. Meet Customers’ Needs

Effective microcopy is an opportunity to create a memorable experience and connect with your audience.

Consider their needs and the relevant information they can use in meeting those needs. If they make a mistake, a popup explaining the error will go a long way.

For example, let’s take a look at our 404 page:

Bluehost’s 404 redirect page with helpful microcopy
Screenshot

It not only informs the user that a webpage can’t be found but also guides the user to double-check for typos.

2. Provide Further Context

While navigating your website or application, a user must be able to figure out what everything does within seconds. It creates a pleasant, effortless experience.

Microcopy can make or break that experience.

For example, while internet users identify a search bar when they see one, knowing what to enter is not always clear to them. Either they can spend seconds figuring it out through the context, or you can add a relevant placeholder text to provide a polished experience.

Bluehost’s domain name search bar with the form placeholder “Search for your perfect name…”
Screenshot

3. Build Trust

Microcopy should be engaging and persuasive. But, it should never mislead users: making it harder for users to make their own choices.

Common instances of misleading by microcopy, sometimes called dark patterns, include:

  • Download buttons leading to malicious websites
  • Software installations with adware and bloatware
  • Hidden costs — that often hide behind free trials

Due to the prevalence of dark patterns, you can use microcopy correctly to build brand loyalty and customer engagement.

Spotify’s connect with Facebook button
Screenshot

For example, Spotify builds trust through its microcopy when it asks users to link their Facebook and promises to never post without the user’s permission.

4. Invite Engagement

While you should prioritize your users’ needs when creating microcopy, you should also consider the macro content strategy of your website.

Short messages calling for direct action engage more users. A Nielson study found that concise text and objective language improved usability by 124%.

For example, Airbnb’s homepage uses several microcopy elements to compel users to click through. The message “I’m flexible”, in particular, stands out.

Airbnb’s homepage with an “I’m flexible” button.
Screenshot

It sets the expectation that you’ll see a variety of properties for rent. The microcopy above the button communicates a conversational playfulness providing additional context.

Final Thoughts: What Is Microcopy? 4 Tips To Improve Your UX

Microcopy is an often overlooked aspect of user experience design that can impact your website’s performance.

By optimizing the minor text on your website — buttons, error messages and forms — you can make your website feel polished and personalized.

Think of your user’s needs when crafting your microcopy and create useful, engaging and trustworthy additions to your website.

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Devin Sears
Devin Sears | Field Marketing Manager

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