by Steve Kellas

It may not be obvious because our role is supposed to be about the words; but, if you want to be successful as a web copywriter, you need to understand and utilise design principles within your copywriting.

Why?

Because design and layout affects the message – your words – and it can do so in unexpected ways.

See what your customers see

Let’s take, for instance, where your messages sit in your customers’ web browser.

What can they see when they arrive on the page? Is your call to action buried past the bottom of the screen?

Is the headline you chose running over the line by one word?

Does the message lose its effectiveness with the images and other content on the page?

Well, now you can know for sure.

Google Analytics has introduced a very useful tool that lets you see what your customers see by showing you a nifty visualisation of your pages. A Google Analytics blog post back in June outlines its usefulness.

“Many users are on mobile platforms, and although desktop monitors are getting bigger, browsers aren’t necessarily following suit. For many people, the visible portion of the web page is much smaller than the screen resolution, because of excessive toolbars and other clutter.”

More devices means you need to focus

Because more website visitors are arriving on more types of devices, the issue of how much of your message is visible is more important than ever before.

This means you need a little visual design in your copy. Here are a few ways you can put more (visual) emphasis on the messages you write:

  • Use bold face type to highlight keywords (search terms) – this was always important in web copywriting, but now you simply can’t ignore the way bold just stands out on any device. Say ‘no’ to italics.
  • Make sure the design doesn’t hide the links – designers and developers sometimes make the underline on hyperlinks only show on a hover state, instead of the default state. This practice makes the underline disappear for the reader, making it very difficult to spot links in text. That’s bad. Ask them not to do it. If they want to hide underlines, ask them to hide it on hover.
  • Use your H1, H2, H3 properly – you should using these anyway for SEO reasons (and good markup reasons). Document design has always used different type faces and sizes to show hierarchy within documents. So does HTML. This is to your advantage. Understand them. Use them. A whole page of a single-sized font is boring to look at and your message will get lost.
  • Work with a good designer – by the nature of their craft, designers automatically treat your copy as a design element. By working with them (and not ignoring them) you will find that it is actually easier to ensure your copy is treated right. Exchange ideas. Listen to them. Accept that, occasionally, they just might come up with a better headline than yours.

Oh, and don’t forget to use that Google Analytics tool so that you can see how your web copywriting will appear for your customers.

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