We’re living in a Renaissance period for UX design, and it’s marvelous.
Executives are finally realizing that brands need a carefully crafted user experience to thrive. This awakening has led to a new era for microcopy — an age when just the right words can really differentiate a product.
The decision to exclude positive examples was purposeful, as I wanted to keep the piece focused and digestible. But, I’m now sharing some of the best microcopy in existence — copy that puts the “fun” in functional and the “art” in smart.
These expertly designed buttons, forms, landing pages, and more show off the potential of UX writing at its apex. When you need some inspiring examples to get your content strategy and creativity flowing, I hope the 10 fine specimens below help you get there.
1. Crystal-clear confirmations
Few things freak out users more than processing payment before expected (as described in Part 1 of No Good, Very Bad UX Writing Mistakes). People care a lot about their money. Heck, I sure do!
Good microcopy lets you know exactly where you are in the purchase flow.
Airbnb reassures customers that, “You won’t be charged yet,” which allows them to proceed to the next step without fear. This brief sentence answers the question that every user has when they see a price near a button.
Similarly, Amazon avoids unnecessary refunds with the unambiguous, “Place your order.” Nothing is left open to interpretation. If you click, you pay — that’s it.
Any monetary transaction requires this level of transparency if you want to do right by your customers. Clue them into exactly what will happen when they press that button and they’ll know they can trust your brand.
2. Surprise hover effects
I remember the first time I went to sign-in to my Wufoo account. I laughed audibly and waved over my coworker to share the clever interaction. With a dinosaur mascot, this microcopy truly makes their website roar.
This tiny effect is genius for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t sacrifice any clarity in exchange for brand expression. The “Login” text is still the first thing an existing user would click.
Secondly, it makes excellent use of such limited space — creating an opportunity for voice that’s normally overlooked.
And, finally, the “Rawrr!” is a delightful surprise designed specifically for existing customers. It’s not about increasing conversion and new cash; it’s about creating a fun moment that makes people want to come back.
3. Brutally honest filters
Hipmunk, you get me. I would love to buy a drink for whomever came up with this idea.
As all avid travelers know, the cheapest fare is rarely the fastest one. No one wants to spend 12 hours and 3 layovers flying from Milwaukee to Omaha. But, until now, no filter has truly captured the biggest pain points of air travel. I’ve always had to sort flights by price and then scroll down to a tolerable level of agony.
This “sort by” default shows a high degree of empathy and solves a significant problem in a single word. It’s smart and funny and functional and everything we aspire to attain as UX writers. More, please!
4. Page not found errors that make you want to get lost
Error pages are the UX writer’s playground. You have nothing to lose, since your users are already lost, and everything to gain.
The ideal content is fabulously entertaining and helps assuage the frustration of disoriented customers.
This Github 404 page plays right into the hands of its nerdy audience. (You know I love you, nerds.) The Star Wars reference is relevant and charming — how could anyone feel grumpy about landing on a missing page?
As if I needed more reasons to adore NPR.
In addition to journalistic integrity in trying times, this 404 page is the user experience equivalent of Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!
At first glance, it’s a pretty boring Web 1.0 design. Read a little further, though, and discover a list of famously lost icons — all welcome company for a page that seems to have vanished without a trace. It’s the stuff legends are made of.
5. Simple questions (instead of commands)
No one likes a bossy interface.
Generally, UX writers are trained to guide users by telling them exactly what to do. “Choose one of these!” or “Start that!”
In many cases, this is fine, but sometimes a question works better than a command. If you have a list of options to present, you have an opportunity to ask nicely for a selection.
Netflix says, “Who’s watching?” each time a user logs in, which feels less aggressive than “Pick a viewer” or something along those lines.
I’d also like to note the use of a contraction in this instance. I frequently hear the voice of my grade school English teacher in my head saying, “Contractions are too informal and should never be used in professional writing of any kind!”
Just like in grade school, I completely ignore her and you probably should too. Sure, if you’re writing an academic paper, avoid contractions. If you’re writing an interface, however, keep it casual.
Go for the most natural and concise wording possible. The more approachable your microcopy sounds, the better.
6. Landing pages that show and don’t just tell
This landing page for the notification silencing app Muzzle is simple, yet genius. It’s also quite risqué — readers with a sensitive constitution may wish to avert their eyes from the sordid microcopy below.
The use of fake alerts perfectly demonstrates the value of the product: avoiding humiliating notifications at the worst possible moment. While (hopefully) few individuals need to worry about this level of TMI, the concept feels very relatable. The exaggerated indecency makes it all the more effective.
By thinking beyond value prop bullets, this microcopy perfectly demonstrates the age-old writing technique of show don’t tell.
A full story with emotional impact is conveyed in a few brief sentences. At first, one may laugh at the poor rube with his name on the wall in HR. But then, one shall download the app to avoid the same notorious fate.
7. Clever calls-to-action
Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the punniest of them all? (Answer: It’s InVision.)
I always get a chuckle out of the CTAs in emails sent by “Clark from InVision.” They know their audience and aren’t trying to convert a broad swath of users with generic buttons. Instead, they’re engaging with designers who stare at CTAs every day and appreciate the creativity.
Emails offer some great real estate for experimental microcopy. You can test fresh ideas quickly with minimal risk — especially if it’s for a newsletter and not an acquisition-oriented direct marketing campaign.
A “call-to-action” does not necessarily need to specify an action when users are intimately acquainted with the next step.
The rules of sign-up flows do not apply here. In certain contexts, a clever pun will drive more engagement than a “Read More” or “View Article.” UX writers are often restricted by best practices for conversion, but when you’re not, have fun with it.
8. Copy that speaks to you
The pros at Medium sure know how to convey a distinctive and authoritative brand — and I promise I’m not getting paid to say this! Think of all the publishing platforms out there…How did Medium burst onto the scene with so much authority in so little time?
This microcopy is aspirational and emotive without a trace of silliness. I adore a humorous interface, but Medium wants to convey expertise and elevated thinking, which rarely comes with LOLs.
Instead, they speak directly to the user.
You’ll notice that the question is asking you, the human on the other side of the screen, if you believe in destiny. Then, the CTA jumps to a first-person perspective and becomes your inner voice with “surprise me…”
It’s a subtle touch of empathy, but it works.
Also, don’t get me started on the graphic collages Medium creates — so editorial! And a lovely complement to the tone of the copy.
9. A balanced touch of brand personality
In other situations, a sense of humor is just what the doctor ordered. Dollar Shave Club is renowned for their brand personality, which shows up at opportune moments along their user journeys.
It’s almost never a good idea to sacrifice clarity for voice. However, if a UX writer gets too stuck in this mindset, they may start missing opportunities to differentiate their brand.
When a page is built with the primary intention of converting new customers, the contention over verbiage tends to become particularly heated. Executives care a lot about what these “front doors” are saying to potential customers.
Dollar Shave Club adeptly balances clarity and brand voice in this example. The Queen reference adds personality without muddying the message.
10. Errors with oomph (and instructions)
Like 404 pages, form errors often cause user frustration. The job of the UX writer becomes not only explaining the issue and how to fix it, but also mitigating the user’s annoyance.
This error message from MailChimp makes it nearly impossible to feel perturbed.
Sure, it took a few extra characters to fit in “evil twin” and “spooky,” but now users are smiling instead of furrowing their brows.
Like I said in the beginning, the gold standard of UX writing puts the “fun” in functional and the “art” in smart. Each word in these examples serves a purpose — either solving a problem for users or eliciting a desired emotional response.
Every UX writer knows that the shorter something is, the harder it is to write.
Despite hours of research, ideation, and testing, the end product needs to feel effortless. The irony of UX design is that when it’s truly great, it often goes unnoticed.
So, if you know of awesome UX writing examples that I missed, please feel free to share them in the comments below. After all, it’s up to the design community to recognize one other for great work!
Written by Melissa Mapes, Founder of Real Big Words
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