Small but Mighty
Microcopy, text that runs from 20 to 200 characters, can be a powerful tool if we use it smartly and strategically.
It might be all the user reads — we have seconds to attract and hold someone's interest — so it must do a lot of heavy lifting.
Many university home pages are dominated by microcopy, in the way a magazine cover features teaser headlines. Microcopy draws visitors deeper into our sites.
Other examples of microcopy include:
- Page titles: Choose them carefully. They should accurately describe the page’s content and tell the user what they’ll find. They're also important for SEO (search engine optimization).
- Headlines: When people scan a page, a headline can let them know they’ve found what they’re seeking. Headlines should also inspire the user to learn more, while conveying the key point you want them to know.
- Captions: The first thing someone looks at on a web page is the photo. The second is the caption. A photo without a thoughtfully and strategically written caption is an unfinished message and a lost opportunity.
- Calls to action: Content that inspires the user to do something and/or to engage with your site. They should begin with a persuasive verb (apply, discover, explore, learn, etc.).
- Teasers: Limit the text to one or two active-voice sentences that encourage people to find out more about the featured topic by clicking on a hyperlink.
- Thank-you pages: These messages generally appear when someone has submitted a form. They should include your thanks, a note that the form has been accepted, and an estimate of the time to expect a response.
- Block quotes: These components, which can be used as art elements on pages without photos, contain persuasive or illustrative text supporting the page topic.
- Topic tags: These descriptive word(s) should be attached to every news story to lead users to related items of interest.
- Link text: People need to know immediately what they’re getting (“Read a program description in the catalog.” “Learn how to apply.”). Banish the phrases “click here” and “learn more” from your site. They don’t convey information and violate accessibility best practices.
- Be concise, descriptive, and transparent.
- Use the words that your audience uses.
- Avoid transitive verbs.
- Frontload important information.
- Personalize. Use “you” and “we.”
- Think about context.
- Choose clarity over cleverness.
- Keep the voice and tone of Mason in mind.