User Experience & Human Centred Copywriting

Your website copy can make or break the user experience. Learn more about human centred copywriting and how to write for users.

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For those that regularly read Browser Media’s inbound marketing blog (you guys rock), you’ll know I’m passionate about brand storytelling and communicating your marketing message effectively for a complete user experience. It’s no wonder then that recently I treated myself to the recording of Hannah Alvarez’s #UTWebinar on human centred copywriting.

Alvarez reminded us that the user experience is more than just interfaces and workflows. It’s about the complete experience – and website copy can make or break it.

Your website copy is a conversation with your audience

Ok, probably feels a bit (or very) one sided, but your website’s copy really will shape your users’ perception of you and your brand/business depending on the kind of language you use. Check out the following example used in the webinar:

Human Centred Copywriting - Example
Taken from Hannah Alvarez’s webinar “Human Centred Copywriting”

The two pieces of copy are describing the same thing (dresses), but do so in a very different way to tap into a very different audience.

Know your audience

This is a mantra I’ve used before, but it’s so important, I’m going to re-iterate. Handy because Alvarez offered five pieces of advice for understanding the human beings you’re trying to communicate with, encouraging us to keep in mind that humans are weird.

1. Your audience is anxious

Studies show we tend to harbour fear of the unknown and this can apply to websites too. Users are getting more and more savvy and so are more and more careful when visiting new sites or when volunteering personal information online. Use your copy to reassure those fears. Become the user and ask yourself, “what’s the number one question after that first interaction?” then answer it in your copy.

Human Centred Copywriting - Example 2 - via Alvarez
But what if it doesn’t fit? Oh. Never mind.

2. Your audience doesn’t read

… and if they do, they don’t remember. Nielsen found that users typically have time to read around 20% of website copy, and Alvarez supplied this enlightening (but rather depressing) graph about the amount of information retained when a user does read:

Human Centred Copywriting - users don't read - via Alvarez
Taken from Hannah Alvarez’s webinar “Human Centred Copywriting”

Unless a user is highly interested in your content, they’re going to scan read it. Make it easier for them to do so by using fewer words, tackling one idea/goal at a time and testing out one or two of the tips I covered here.

3. Your audience wants to fit in and stand out

In order to achieve this, you’re going to need to make sure that visitors to your website feel like an individual, but also that they are part of a group of other, like-minded individuals. After all, we’re all equally special, right?

I can’t think of a better example of this than the copy Apple use about the iPhone:

“Because to us, things should always be easy. Like answering the question, “How many different messaging apps should it take to send words, voice messages, group messages, photos, videos, Easter Island stone head emoji, my location, and weird cat GIFs to everyone I know?” Answer: One. Or, “How much should it cost to send all that stuff to people who have an iPhone or iPad or Mac?” Answer: Nothing. And also, “How do I make a video call to my best friend who’s halfway around the world?” Answer: FaceTime. And, last question, “Shouldn’t all of that stuff just come built into my phone?” Yep.”

Why there’s nothing quite like iPhone

As an android user, what am I doing with my life?**

4. Your audience is affected by their environment

Accessibility can be an issue for any of us. When you’re using your smartphone when the sun’s out, you can’t see your screen. If your hands are full, you don’t have full touchscreen capabilities. When you’re running late, it’s easy to make mistakes and get frustrated.

Human Centred Copywriting - a 47 word road sign - via Alvarez
What the? I don’t even.

Use plain language and uncomplicated sentences. This isn’t the same as dumbing something down, it’s just stripping out the unnecessary fluff and being careful with jargon. Remember that not every user is your ideal user, and while it can help qualify your traffic by using industry specific terminology, be mindful of the ‘curse of knowledge’ so you’re not potentially alienating part of your traffic.

5. Your audience is suspicious

When a user comes to your website, they know that – more often than not – you’re trying to sell something. That makes them suspicious. Thing is, you-the-seller will also experience this as you-the-consumer! That’s right. You get it. You understand what it means to be sold to too. You empathise.

Communicate that empathy by using the same language as your audience. Listen to how they speak and find out how they describe your product or service by requesting feedback, visiting related forums and exploring social media. If you can get on the same wavelength, you’re more likely to build a relationship with your audience.

Don’t take your word for it

Even after incorporating the above when writing you copy, getting your colleagues involved or asking a friend to review what you’ve written provides a valuable second opinion. A great way to find out if your copy is succinct and understandable is to ask that friend to explain what they just read. If they can’t, it’s probably time for a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) draft. A/B test your copy whenever possible and create a list of words you should never use and a list of words or phrases you should use instead.

**Jokes. Android 4 lyf

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