Good Design Deserves Good Copy – Writing Skills for Designers

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Good copy writing is to UX, what salt is to soup – it’s not just an ingredient, it is an absolute essential. The messaging used in your app makes a great deal of difference to how well your users connect with your app. As designers, you spent weeks obsessing over every frame, page and layout.

You started with ‘lorem ipsum‘ and thought you’d write something in the end. Then you poured all your energy into creating a stunning design and now, with little time and energy left, you type in the most basic words describing the product and submit your designs.

You created a design you can rightfully be proud of. It is visually astounding and rich. But your users aren’t all designers. They are people who just downloaded an app, that they think would solve a problem and make their lives simpler.

And design isn’t always sufficient for that. You need good copy. You need words that instill trust and assure users that you know what they want and can give them just that. You need copy that gets to the point quickly and explains everything in just a few words.

Now of course, the best plan here is to hire a skilled copywriter. But if that’s not happening right now, designers too can learn a few skills and write words better than ‘lorem ipsum’. Here are few basic guidelines that will help you write copy that does justice to the design and reinforces the value of your app, to truly engage users:

Highlight the benefits, not the features

Don’t tell them you’ve designed a two-factor authentication. Tell them you’ve made the app more secure. Don’t tell them that you’ve introduced a brand new social sharing feature with camera integration. Tell them that they can now tap photos and share with their friends in one touch.

As a designer, you can’t help but feel proud of your design and want to enumerate its intricacies. But more often than not, users don’t care much about technical complexities. They just need to know what’s in it for them. It is important that you get to the point right away and tell them how you are making their life easier and solving their problem. That’s what they want to know.

Bad copy

An example of the ‘All About Me’ copy.

The longer you take to highlight the benefit, the more distracted and wary they get. So for a moment, keep your extraordinary design skills aside and focus on the end user’s benefits.

Good copy

And here’s an example of simple, clear, customer focused copy.

Cut the jargon

These three words might as well be etched in your desk. You absolutely have to cut out jargon from your copy. You need to use words that your users tend to use in their daily speak, because those are the words they will like to hear and relate to.

Tell them you have made navigation smoother and easier. Don’t say your app now comes with sticky navigation for enhanced control. Don’t toss around words like ‘hamburger menus’ and ‘slideouts’.

Even the words that have become pillow talk for you as a designer might be Greek and Latin for your non-technical users. Using complicated technical words in your copy can result in a range of reactions from users, like feeling confused, irrelevant, intimidated or even angry. Need we say you don’t want that?

While we’re at it, also note that you need to steer clear of marketing speak just as cautiously as jargon. Words and phrases like ‘adding value’, ‘thinking outside the box’ and ‘our best ever technology’ never quite evoke the right emotions in the user.

Jargon heavy copy

An example of jargon heavy copy.

Hear out your users

Try to get amidst your audience and observe how they talk about your app, or at least about the service you offer. Getting real verbal feedback is the best way to feel out your audience’s lingo and incorporate that into your copy to sound more approachable and relatable. You could do this by creating an active beta community and encouraging them to share more feedback.

Alternatively, you could observe the apps of your competitors and scour their review sections to see what people love and what drives them to the wall. If you see people gushing about a certain feature and you have that too, include that in your messaging, and try to incorporate some of the adjectives you use.

If you come across a pet peeve and your app is addressing that particular problem, take the opportunity to highlight that. Talk in the vernacular that your audience speaks.

Establish Your brand’s voice

Do you want to speak to your users in a young and enthusiastic voice, or a calm and comforting voice? Are you more of a friend or a philosopher? Make up your mind about your brand’s persona and stay consistent throughout. Don’t start sounding casual on one page and annoyingly formal on the next.

Once you have identified your voice persona, cut out any words that don’t go with it and instead, adopt the right words that strengthen your message.

Try to always talk to your users directly. Use the word ‘you’ to address the user as it instantly builds a connection and makes your copy flow like a conversation.

Adapt the design to fit the copy, not the other way around

So you created a box that can only fit about 25 words in 12pt Helvetica. But now you can’t possibly fit all your on-boarding text in that space. Are you going to slash away key content and deliver an ineffective, butchered up description?

Consider increasing the size of the box because design shouldn’t impede your messaging. Tweaking your design isn’t that hard when you have the right tools, but cutting corners on the messaging will have a negative effect.

Wrapping up

You don’t have to have a degree in writing to craft a good copy. Most of the time, all it takes is honesty and simplicity. Once you’ve got that down, the above guidelines should help you communicate your message in the best possible way, so that your users can form a connection with your and appreciate your app the way you want them to.

If there’s anything else you wish to add to this list, do reach out in the comments section.

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Jaykishan Panchal

Jaykishan Panchal is a content marketing strategist at MoveoApps, a Mobile app development company.He enjoys writing about Technology, marketing & industry trends. He is tech enthusiast and love to explore new stuff.
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