“The microcopy injected new life into our site. Visitors feel that someone is communicating with them, and accompanying them through the whole purchasing process.”
Yoav Golan, CEO of an Israeli start-up
Words that help users (and you)
Microcopy (UX Writing) is the words or phrases in the user interface that are directly related to the actions a user takes: The motivation before the action, instructions that accompany the action, and the feedback after the user has taken the action.
Examples are buttons, error messages, short explanations in tooltips, confirmation messages, what’s written next to fields and also inside them, and more.
The goals of microcopy (UX writing) are to drive action, provide guidance, excite when needed, remove barriers that prevent an action being taken, improve usability and conversions, and sometimes just being funny. It engages users, helps them identify with your brand, enriches their experience, and resolves frictions before they even arise.
In the short videos below, you’ll see real-life examples of microcopy (UX Writing), and will experience for yourself the difference it makes in the UI. The videos are in Hebrew, with English subtitles.
Who invented microcopy
In 2009, Joshua Porter wrote a blog post with the title Writing Microcopy. In the post, he described a checkout form he created for an e-commerce project, where 5%-10% of the online transactions were failing because of billing address errors.
What did Porter do? He added one sentence next to the billing address field: “Be sure to enter the billing address associated with your credit card”.
“And just like that, the errors went away…” Porter wrote, “saving support time and increasing revenue on the improved conversion.”
Porter shared with his readers an idea that he had been mulling over for a while – just adding a few words in the right place at the right time could completely change the user experience. Not only that, he coined the name for this type of copy: Microcopy.
A few years later the term UX Writing was coined. I use it too sometimes, but there's a reason why I called the book Microcopy. What's in a name?