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Tiny Words Matter - Why You Should Pay for Microcopy


Error codes are frustrating. Good microcopy means you can smile when you see them.


Error codes: everyone hates them. they keep you away from the information you’re looking for, and they make you want to fold your fingers into a firm fist, and put a hole in your laptop, but you can’t, because it cost a lot of money, and you’re really not that emotional. 

Do you know what makes most error codes so frustrating? The fact that half of them just say you can’t get in, and they don’t tell you what you need to do to get in. Like bouncers at a night club or the security guy at the supermarket entrance that doesn’t tell you to go get a facemask, but instead picks you up and throws you in a dumpster. I’m sure that happens.

Error codes have been the blight of the internet for many, many years, and the problem is not with their existence, because errors happen. The problem is with their format.

However, thanks to the evolution of man and the creativity of a few, UX teams have begun to consider a better way of presenting error codes, and that is how Tiny Words began to matter. UX teams are the people in organizations, behind the scenes, trying to make sure you enjoy your time on a website, or an app, or a software. A UX team is to virtual programs, what Customer Experience Management is to business. They make sure that even though mistakes happen and sometimes a couch is delivered to you when you only ordered a spoon, you’re not so pissed you never want to come back.

Let’s take a look at some error codes;

1.       The 400 code: This means bad request, but what does bad request mean and what am I supposed to do about it? It sounds like you asked for a kiss on the first date.

2.       The 401 code: This means unauthorized. But. But. But… I’m not carrying metal, and this is not the international airport.

3.       The 402 code: This means forbidden. Really. FORBIDDEN. Are you my British grandparents? Come on!

4.       The 404 code: We’ve all seen this one. It just means not found. So, what do I do now? Nothing. Not found go home.

In order to fix this frustrating problem, microcopy was born. Errors cannot stop happening, that’s a fact. However, the information provided when these errors happen can become more useful.

Microcopy is the tiny bits of copy on a product. We hardly even notice them, but they can be the difference between a product that people return to and its better designed competition that people don’t use.

From the call-to-action buttons to the placeholder text on the forms you fill. Each of these things make your experience easier, and that’s why microcopy is created by UX writers, user experience writers who are more concerned with the user’s feelings than the “proper words.”

Musixmatch is an app that plays music and reveals lyrics. The typical text for when the lyrics cannot be found would be “lyrics not found” or “lyrics unknown” but musixmatch is all up in the future. Rather than any of these text, the app shows any one of these microcopies when it can’t find the lyrics of an audio file;

  • ·         Sorry, we don’t have these lyrics, you didn’t really want to listen to this song, did you?
  • ·         Our magic 8 ball says try again later. Stupid 8 ball.
  • ·         Clearly, your music taste is better than ours.
  • ·         Well, this is embarrassing…it happens to everyone once in a while…
  • ·         Whoops, I forgot the lyrics to that song…
  • ·         Our intern lost the lyrics to this song. Bad intern…

Just look at those copies! I hate that you don’t have the lyrics, but I’m ok too. why? Because it looks like they care that I didn’t get what I wanted from their product. This is how microcopy works. It says, “I’m sorry that didn’t work. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, here’s what you can do.”

Microcopy saves the user from frustration, and lets them know that you the developer knows their problems. It helps the user feel seen and heard at the time when they need it the most.

This is why many login pages have gone from “user authentication failed” to “wrong password. Check and try again.”

Good microcopy is;

  • ·         Clear
  • ·         Short
  • ·         Easy to understand at a glance
  • ·         Sounds like the brand it speaks for
  • ·         Answers a question or at least empathizes with the user

If your developer says to pay for microcopy, you better do it.

I love writing microcopy. I love seeing good microcopy on pages even more than I love writing it. What are some cool microcopy examples you’ve read? Share in the comments.

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9 comments:

  1. Wow! This is so insightful. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like micro copies that start with ’oops’.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. I must say I've not really noticed these much. I'm one those people that just move on if the page is not loading quick enough but this is really educating.
    Thank You Ma'am

    ReplyDelete

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