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Copywriting is design

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Slides from the presentation I gave at FOWD London 2011.

Slides from the presentation I gave at FOWD London 2011.

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  • (I’ve illustrated my talk with examples – a lot of them actually aren’t offline, but that’s because they’re easier to take in and absorb, I think...)You rad online, or on web apps, all the timeEvery button you press, every form you fill in, every page you viewEven though there’s more video than ever, there are also more words.And while not everyone will read everything on your website, everyone will read some of it. And that’s why every word matters.
  • Here’s what I do, and what people like me do...InstructionsInformationPart of your brandA sales tool (you can be selling ideas, things, whatever...)SEO
  • Here are a few things copywriters don’t do...(Of 398 addresses in my address book, 29 – or about 7% - had email addresses over 32 characters. What are those people meant to do, even with these instructions?)
  • (Of 398 addresses in my address book, 29 – or about 7% - had email addresses over 32 characters. What are those people meant to do, even with these instructions?)
  • ‘Warning: the email address limit is 32 characters’(Of 398 addresses in my address book, 29 – or about 7% - had email addresses over 32 characters. What are those people meant to do, even with these instructions?)
  • (Of 398 addresses in my address book, 29 – or about 7% - had email addresses over 32 characters. What are those people meant to do, even with these instructions?)
  • (Of 398 addresses in my address book, 29 – or about 7% - had email addresses over 32 characters. What are those people meant to do, even with these instructions?)
  • (Of 398 addresses in my address book, 29 – or about 7% - had email addresses over 32 characters. What are those people meant to do, even with these instructions?)
  • ‘The address can contain only letters, numbers, periods, hyphens or underscores’ ... But it’s an email address!
  • 67 word cancellation policy that basically says:If you cancel before 4pm the day before check in, you lose your money.It’s hard for the people on the website to understand. It takes them more time than it should to take it in.And anything that makes it harder for the people on your website makes it harder for you get them to buy from you (or to do whatever you want them to do).
  • This isloremipsumDesigners use it because it focuses people on the page design, without the distraction of words that might change later anyway.But I hate it, because without the right words, your web page is meaningless.What’s wrong with loremipsum?It’s always the right length – doesn’t take into account how much space there needs to be for textIt makes no sense, so you have no idea which elements in your design do whatIt causes people to focus solely on the look of the page, at the expense of the contentUsing it is just like saying ‘that buit’s not important’About the only thing you can say about a webpage that contains only loremipsum is ‘it looks niec’. You and I both know that design isn’t about making things ‘look nice’.I see it as summing up up what’s wrong with how websites are sometimes designed.ULTIMATELY, it encourages us to think about visuals and text separately, when actually they’re two components of the same thing. One doesn’t work without the other.
  • So, here’s your client, and he’s looking at your designs with loremipsum all over them. And, obviously, he’s going to focus on the design, because that’s what you’re implying by using Latin text everywhere
  • So, this is why I’m here, really. I believe great website design is a product of great copy, great visuals and great functionality.I’m starting a campaign to get words noticed again. I’ve sat in meetings with clients and other designers too many times where content hasn’t been touched upon. I’ve been called in at the last minute too many times, seen content shoehorned in at the last moment once too often. And it breaks my heart.I’m not saying designers don’t have the best intentions at heart when they do things, but it’s about time copy got the same level of prominence as the way stuff looks. Because the two are the same. Because copywriting is design. And because we need each other. Great website designs provide the framework within which great content should sit.It’s a symbiotic relationship, and only when we get the best out of both can we make them work well together.
  • So, this is why I’m here, really. I’m starting a campaign to get words noticed again. I’m not saying designers don’t have the best intentions at heart when they do things, but it’s about time copy got the same level of prominence as the way stuff looks. Because the two are the same. Because copywriting is design. And because we need each other.
  • When copy gets neglected till last, it damages your entire project.It isn’t something to be shoehorned in at the last minute.But why does copy neglect happen?
  • Because everyone has the basic ability to write, often people assume that it’s going to be easy to get the copy / content for a website right. Well, it doesn’t work like that – and you only have to look at what happens when you try and do it yourself to see.
  • Because everyone has the basic ability to write, often people assume that it’s going to be easy to get the copy / content for a website right. Well, it doesn’t work like that – and you only have to look at what happens when you try and do it yourself to see.
  • Just take a step back from your projects, whatever you’re working on at the moment, and think about how you’re running things. What about content, copy? Who’s working on it? Is there a writer? How could you change things?I know, you’ve got deadlines to hit, you get in that wheel and you don’t get off till it’s finished.Stop and think what would happen if you put as much effort into your copy as into the look at feel of your project / app / site.Maybe you’re doing things the wrong way.
  • Just take a step back from your projects, whatever you’re working on at the moment, and think about how you’re running things. What about content, copy? Who’s working on it? Is there a writer? How could you change things?I know, you’ve got deadlines to hit, you get in that wheel and you don’t get off till it’s finished.Stop and think what would happen if you put as much effort into your copy as into the look at feel of your project / app / site.Maybe you’re doing things the wrong way. Or even, maybe there’s just a better way.
  • You need to be talking about:Overall approachHow forms / components will look and behaveFunction of different areas on the pageLabels / buttons and other microcopyAny SEO considerationsFunctionalityUsabilityYour audienceThis doesn’t need to take more time / cost more.
  • Communicate regularly. This is the single most important thing.
  • That’s not just the overall approach, but it means talking through what you want each page, and each element to doAnd remember: with two of you, it’s twice as easy to push back on the client!
  • It’s easy to lose sight of the overall objectives when you’re focusing on individual elements, so some balance is called for.
  • Things have a habit of changing; it comes back to ownership
  • Remember this, it’sloremipsum
  • ...so, if you fall into that category, it’s time to start doing things differently. Run copy – or content – and design together, and see what happens.Here’s how.First of all, remember that loremipsum we talked about earlier? Just stop using it.It’s easier than it sounds. Put in placeholder text. It doesn’t have to be right. It just has to make some sort of sense. Go on, try it.This is especially important for forms, buttons, errors and so on.
  • Finally, here are some of the things that often get missed.It’s easy to get the big stuff right.But the things that get missed sometimes are the small bits of copy; the labels, the error messages, and so on.If there’s one thing you should look out for, it’s this.Consider automated tools to catch this later on.But the best thing is not to add any placeholder text.Test thoroughly.This stuff makes the difference between a frustrating experience, an ok experience, or a great one.
  • Because everyone has the basic ability to write, often people assume that it’s going to be easy to get the copy / content for a website right. Well, it doesn’t work like that – and you only have to look at what happens when you try and do it yourself to see.
  • This is from an accounting website, diyaccounting.co.ukLook at how intimidating that text is. Now, maybe it all needs to be there, but a good designer can find a better way to present it.
  • What I’m trying to say is that we work well together ... Like fish and chips, we’re a great double act.
  • These are my credits ... Any questions?

Copywriting is design Copywriting is design Presentation Transcript

  • Copywriting
    is
    John McGarvey
    mcgarvey.co.uk
    @johnmcg
    web design
  • Copywriting is...
    • Information
    • Instructions
    • Branding
    • Selling
    • SEO
    Any text on your website or application
  • ©
  • ©
  • Copywriting isn’t...
    A quick fix
  • Copywriting isn’t...
  • Copywriting isn’t...
    Every piece of information
  • Copywriting isn’t...
    Space filler
  • Bad copy is everywhere
  • Bad copy is everywhere
    It makes you look silly
  • Bad copy is everywhere
  • Bad copy is everywhere
    It’s really confusing
  • Bad copy is everywhere
    It makes your website harder to use
  • Loremipsumdolor
    Loremipsumdolor sit amet, consecteturadipisicingelit, sed do eiusmodtemporincididuntutlabore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut
    Loremipsumdolor sit amet
  • You can’t see how it works
    Whoops...
  • Text doesn’t fit
    Uh-oh!
  • The words get forgotten
    “We’ll just add them later...”
  • Things need to change
  • “Nothing is sadder than a beautiful design that works great with loremipsum but doesn’t actually support the real content.”
    - Jeffrey Zeldman
  • Stop neglecting copy
  • Anyone can write, right?
  • Anyone can write, right?
  • Anyone can write, right?
  • Anyone can write, right?
  • It’s how we always do it
  • It’s how we always do it
  • Do it together
  • Sit down together
    Team up on wireframes
  • Keep talking
  • Agree your approach
  • Choose your tools
  • Own it
  • Check everything
  • Loremipsumdolor
    Loremipsumdolor sit amet, consecteturadipisicingelit, sed do eiusmodtemporincididuntutlabore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut
    Loremipsumdolor sit amet
  • Loremipsumdolor
    Loremipsumdolor sit amet, consecteturadipisicingelit, sed do eiusmodtemporincididuntutlabore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut
    Loremipsumdolor sit amet
  • Microcopy matters
  • Microcopy matters
  • Destroy jargon
  • Use fewer words
  • Let’s join forces
  • Let’s join forces
  • Credits
    • Overloaded bike:graeme_newcomb
    • Run down house: LHOON
    • ‘No parking’ sign: Richard Grant
    • Justin Bieber: jake.auzzie / Brandi Jordan
    • ‘Wrong way’ sign: KungPaoCajun
    • Three-legged race: honeybunched
    • Empty chairs: atom
    • Fish and chips sign: Anosmia
    • Red phone box: mckaysavage
    • Thumbs up: .reid
    • Kitten: shimgray
    (All from Flickr users, under Creative Commons. I ♥ Flickr.)
    • Jeffrey Zeldman quote: Sparksheet Q&A, Nov 2009http://sparksheet.com/a-design-apart-qa-with-jeffrey-zeldman/
  • Copywriting
    is
    John McGarvey
    mcgarvey.co.uk
    @johnmcg
    web design