As a web copywriter, I make an effort to keep up with usability research and design trends. I was recently reading The Long & Short of Writing for the Web on 52 Weeks of UX (which is amazing, and you should definitely check it out (now at week 42)). The post discusses something I’ve blogged about here before and it got me thinking about how I approach writing web copy.

After I’ve taken a brief, I spend some time getting to know the big picture of the website, how all the sections are divided, and understanding what types of content go where. Then I put on my web copywriter hat and I start to map out what will go on each page, often by making outlines for each page of content.

While I am doing this, I am making notes about reader needs and answering questions like: which information do they need to know, which do they want to know about, what should they know about. I focus each page of copy to support 3 goals so that I understand what it is that I am going to point the reader towards.

Being the visitor’s guide

The post on 52 Weeks of UX reminded me that not only do I need to be a good copywriter, ultimately I need to be a good guide for the visitors of the website.

I need to show them the way. Not in a way is manipulative, but in a way that points them in the direction they want to go in.

So what makes a good guide? Let’s imagine a museum guide. Here’s a list of what I think makes a good museum experience:

  • The guide is smiling and friendly
  • Greets you (possibly in your own language)
  • Gives you an overview (of the tour)
  • Answers questions confidently
  • (At each exhibit) gives you more information (often interesting) that expands on the topic (what you can see within the display)
  • Entices you to explore more on your own
  • Helps move you on (to the next exhibit)
  • Thanks you (for taking the tour)

Is your web copywriter being a good guide?

I am hearing a lot lately about ‘content curation’ and how brands need to curate content on the social web, and so on. That choice of verbiage is interesting, because in museums, the guides and curators work together to give the best information to their audience.

Your web copywriter, and you (or your ‘curator’), should work together too. Your audience will be much happier.

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