Writing microcopies

Writing microcopies guideline is created on 18 Oct 2018

What is a microcopy?

As the name suggests, microcopies are small lines of text which are present in UIs across platforms. They range from the most endearing congratulatory messages to the most dreaded error warnings.

Microcopies might seem small if you compare them with the traditional content. But in Product Delivery, they are essential in making our experiences intuitive, or even delightful, for users.

Basics

When writing microcopies, always remember the 3 writing principles that we have:

  1. Straightforward -Is this message straightforward enough for users? If it’s an error message, can they understand why they are facing this error and how they can get their results? Does the legal message speak in the users’ language and are they able to understand it without a dictionary at hand?
  2. Empowering - Does this message empower users to take control of their journey? Is the onboarding message, empty state or even error message able to take users from where they are now to a better place? Are we providing the right solution to their current situations?
  3. Inclusive -Does the message include both sides of our users? Does it balance out the tone to be helpful for both candidates and hirers? Are we creating messages that secure the interests of both parties? Are users able to read or hear the message thoroughly and understand?

Now that we’ve gotten the principles in place, let’s start writing microcopies!

Buttons

Messages on buttons are meant to direct users to a certain action. Make sure they’re clear and fit the overall context of the action. They also need to be as short as possible, as they’re the final copy that users see before they do the intended action. E.g.:

  • Search for jobs
  • Sign in
  • Reset password

Tip: It’s okay if you don’t reinvent the wheels and just go with what’s given to you – there are other microcopies that need your attention.

Congratulatory messages

This message is usually given to users after they’ve accomplished an action. Meant as a pat on the back for users, use congratulatory messages sparingly, especially if the action is a small one. But if you really think it fits the context, go for it.

Empty states

These pages appear when a user has not triggered the features of a product or service. This is when your selling skills come in handy as you will need to encourage the user to try them out. Usually, these users are new to the platform, so the rule of “Make a good first impression” counts!

These pages appear when a user has not triggered the features of a product or service. This is when your selling skills come in handy as you will need to encourage the user to try them out. Usually, these users are new to the platform, so the rule of “Make a good first impression” counts!

Error messages

The most misunderstood message that users receive, error messages need to be written in a way that clearly states how the user got there in the first place. No jargons, if possible. Try to provide a solution that will bring them out of the situation that they’re in.

Tip: If it’s something that they did, be nice about it – let them know how to get out. If it’s something that our APIs did, apologise and move on.

Footers

Let’s face it, footers have a bad reputation of being ignored. But in the digital space, it’s a great place for referential links, terms and conditions, business contact details, registration mark and everything else that might not be important to a user now (but will be something that they need in the future).

Forms and field labels

It is important that the labels in a form and its fields are clear for users so that they can input the necessary data.

Just like buttons, it’s okay if you don’t reinvent the wheels and just use what’s given to you. But, if you want certain formats to be followed by the user, you can always use placeholders. Though, not too much as it may be bad for accessibility.

Headers

As David Ogilvy once wrote, “When you have written your [header], you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar”.

This merely serves as a reminder that more people read the header than the body copy itself. This is why headers are meant to be written in way that’s both contextually sound and eye-catching.

Hover messages

Used only on the desktop platform, hover messages help to further explain an action.

Try to minimise the copy for these types of messages as it may be hard for users to read it thoroughly. From a design point-of-view, it can also be seen as messy.

Onboarding messages

Shown to users that just downloaded your app, onboarding messages are another way to upsell your products and services to fresh minds or let them know the benefits of signing up with us.

See upsell messages for more info.

Sub-headers

Helping headers to drive a message even further, sub-headers are important in adding another layer of information to users. They are still able to command a high attention rate and usually give further context to the body copy.

Tip: It’s good for sub-headers to be cohesive with the header and showcase synergy between the two information architecture.

Upsell messages

This is where we get to highlight how awesome our products are to users! But we also have to align our upsell messages with what Marketing and Sales have positioned them to be. An aligned message creates better impact for our overall brand and makes users remember the product better.

You can use something tangible from our products to sell to the users. Hard-selling can be seen as a standard way of writing advertisement-based microcopies, but try to look at it from the users’ perspective. Would hard-selling be something that the users want out of us? If yes, go with it. If no, change the message where it is needed.

Tip: If you find yourself going with a hard-sell approach, start thinking about all the possible features that you can highlight and how they benefit the users. Always go for something more tangible – faster page load, more relevant job ads, higher recommendation frequencies, higher percentage of hiring. If you’re too afraid to make any tangible claims, just direct your questions to the Analytics team.

What else can you do?

If you’re still unsure on what to write, head on over to our example page to get some inspirations for your current project.