Discover the importance of microcopy in product management with our comprehensive dictionary.
As a Product Manager, you know how important user experience is to the success of your products. Every element of your digital product is carefully designed to make the user’s journey as smooth and intuitive as possible. Enter microcopy – the often-overlooked detail that can make all the difference to user experience. In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know about microcopy in product management, including its definition, importance, best practices, examples and how to test and iterate on it for ultimate effectiveness.
Before we delve into the world of microcopy, it’s essential to understand what it really means. Microcopy refers to the tiny pieces of text within a digital product - often just a few words long - that guide, instruct, or reassure the user. It's the text on buttons, form labels, call-to-action messages, tooltips, and error messages within your product.
While the name “microcopy” might sound unfamiliar, chances are you interact with this element multiple times a day. The text in a button that reads “Add to cart,” the message that appears when you’ve entered your password incorrectly, and the words used to clarify a step in a form are all examples of microcopy. Essentially, microcopy is any small bit of text that appears in your digital product that helps the user understand what to do to progress along a journey.
For example, imagine you are on an e-commerce site and you want to purchase a new pair of shoes. You add the shoes to your cart, and when you click on the checkout button, you are prompted to enter your shipping and payment information. The microcopy on the form fields guides you on what information to enter and how to enter it. The text on the buttons reassures you that your purchase is secure and that you can complete your transaction with confidence.
Microcopy is a powerful tool in Product Management. It can be the difference between a successful or an abandoned purchase, smooth and successful onboarding, or onboarding that takes too long, and messaging that acknowledges and soothes frustration following an error. It’s not only about functionality, but the use of tone of voice in the right context, the use of emotive language, and the right words to reassure the user along their journey are equally as important. In fact, it's often the small details such as great microcopy that can turn a satisfied user into a loyal one.
For instance, imagine you are trying to complete a form to sign up for a new service. The form is long and requires a lot of information, and you start to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. But then you notice the microcopy next to each field that tells you exactly what information is required and how it will be used. This reassures you that your personal information is safe and that you are making progress towards completing the form. This is an example of how effective microcopy can make a big difference in the user experience.
Now that you understand what microcopy is and why it’s so important let's explore some key components that will make your microcopy more effective:
The most effective microcopy is both concise and clear. Use as few words as possible to deliver the message you need, and avoid using long or technical words that the user may not understand. Ensure that you consider different user levels and your intended message should be understandable by all. In short, simple is always better than complex.
For example, imagine you are designing a mobile app that helps users track their fitness goals. You want to include a button that allows users to start a workout. Instead of using a long phrase like “Initiate a workout session,” you could use a shorter and more straightforward phrase like “Start workout” to ensure that users can easily understand and engage with the feature.
Microcopy elements - including buttons, forms, and messages - should have a consistent tone of voice across your digital product. For example, if you typically use a fun and playful tone in your copy, you should continue that tone throughout your microcopy to keep the user engaged and consistent voice assists users in feeling more familiar with the product page they are using.
For instance, imagine you are designing a social media platform that caters to a younger audience. You want to create a fun and playful tone that resonates with your users. You could use phrases like “Let’s get social” on the login page, “What’s on your mind?” on the status update page, and “Keep scrolling” on the home page. This consistent tone of voice will help users feel more connected to the platform and create a cohesive user experience.
Context is key when it comes to microcopy. The message or words used for a login prompt should be different from the language used in a purchase confirmation message. Ensuring that the message or words used for each microcopy element reflect their purpose and location can form a stronger feeling of the user’s expectations being met.
For example, imagine you are designing an e-commerce platform. The microcopy on the product pages should be focused on describing the product and its features, while the microcopy on the checkout page should be focused on guiding the user through the purchase process. By tailoring the microcopy to the specific context, you can create a more seamless and intuitive user experience.
The best microcopy is designed to encourage specific user behaviors that will help them progress along their journey. This means using action-oriented language such as “Click here,” “Add to cart,” and “Submit” amongst others. This language doesn't need to be boring but needs to elicit a response to complete the task at hand.
For example, imagine you are designing a travel booking website. The microcopy on the search page could say “Find my next adventure” to encourage users to start looking for their next trip. The microcopy on the checkout page could say “Book my trip now” to encourage users to complete their purchase. By using action-oriented language, you can create a sense of urgency and excitement that motivates users to take action.
To ensure that your microcopy is powerful and works as intended for your intended user groups, there are several best practices you should keep in mind as you write. These practices include:
The most effective microcopy is both concise and clear. Use as few words as possible to deliver the message you need, and avoid using long or technical words that the user may not understand. Ensure that you consider different user levels and the message should be understandable by all. In short, simple is always better than complex.
Microcopy elements - including buttons, forms, and messages - should have a consistent tone of voice across your digital product. For example, if you typically use a fun and playful tone in your copy, you should continue that tone throughout your microcopy to keep the user engaged and for consistent voice assists users in feeling more familiar with the product page they are using.
Context is key when it comes to microcopy. The message or words used for a login prompt should be different from the language used in a purchase confirmation message. Ensuring that the message or words used for each microcopy element reflect their purpose and location can increase satisfaction that the user’s expectations are being met.
The best microcopy is designed to encourage specific user behaviors that will help them progress along their journey. This means using action-oriented language such as “Click here,” “Add to cart,” and “Submit” amongst others. This language doesn't need to be boring though and needs to elicit a response to complete the task at hand.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most effective examples of microcopy that you can use in your product management activities:
Error messages are an excellent example of where microcopy can have a substantial impact. Instead of a generic “Error” message, more informative and helpful messaging like, “Please enter a valid email address” (if the user has not adhered to the email address format) or “Sorry! We’re doing maintenance work, please try again later”. With the right message, the user can then correctly understand the actions they need to take to complete their intended goal.
Your call-to-action (CTA) buttons will play a significant role in determining the success of your digital product. When creating your CTAs, it's essential to use clear, concise, and action-oriented language. Examples of excellent CTA buttons are "Start your free trial" or "Buy Now" as they encourage the user to take action and move forward towards their goals.
Form labeling is an essential part of microcopy in product management. To help users to understand what information they need to input, labels should be clear and concise. The placeholder text within these fields ('password', 'phone number') themselves should be helpful and significant in size, assisting the user and promoting their understanding of what to do at each stage of their journey. Word choice is vital here again, ensuring that the language used is approachable and understandable to all users.
Finally, tool-tips and help text can assist users in understanding how best to use a specific feature. These little messages that show up when hovering or clicking can explain or clarify certain elements of a product and prevent confusion from the user's side.
When it comes to microcopy, testing and iteration are essential activities in ensuring the ultimate effectiveness of your product. This means four key things:
User testing is vital when trying to find out what works and what doesn't work within your product. Be sure to perform user testing with an appropriate sample of your intended users for your digital product. By doing so, your users will authenticate that the microcopy flows and that prompts make sense, encouraging them to move through the journey quickly and efficiently.
Analyzing user data, click-through rates, and product feedback is crucial when assessing the effectiveness of your microcopy. Watching and monitoring these metrics ensures that you can iterate your copy as required and in specific scenarios where previous choices have proven ineffective.
An iterative approach to microcopy is the best way to continually improve its effectiveness. A/B testing, which is the process of comparing two or more versions of a digital product, can be helpful in this regard. Not only does A/B testing allow you to determine which microcopy variation is more effective, but it also helps you to get to know your users better.
Microcopy is an essential part of Product Management and should be overlooked in product design. Microcopy can make all the difference in achieving user goals and ensuring satisfaction in their digital journey. By being clear, concise, consistent, relevant, and encouraging, good microcopy can strengthen your product’s reputation. Remember that testing, iteration, and feedback mechanisms are ideal in exploring and finding out what works and what doesn't work, continued testing which in effect will enhance your product's microcopy for ultimate success.