It's the Little Things...Why Microcopy Matters

Brand Voice
Advice From Titans

Microcopy – what is it, what does it do, and why does it matter?


What is it?  The name says it all, really. It’s small pieces of copy (sometimes a sentence or two, sometimes a single word) on your website.


What does it do? It provides information and instructions in small spaces, e.g., error messages, logins, buttons, disclaimers, payment details, etc.  Think of microcopy as like the arrows on the floor at IKEA, constantly nudging you in the right direction. Okay, on second thoughts, let’s leave IKEA out of this.


Why does it matter? Quality microcopy can have a genuine impact on the overall effectiveness of a website. It’s also another valuable brand voice touchpoint.


Brandon Hagstrom is one of our talented designers here at Irish Titan, and Stephen Quinn is our lead copywriter. They both have a hands-on involvement in the creation and placement of microcopy, so we asked them the same three questions to see if they had similar views.


What’s a common mistake made with microcopy?


BH: That it is overlooked, contrived, too vague and/or off-brand.


SQ: I would say not giving it the attention it deserves. Obviously, there are situations when CLICK HERE is all that’s needed, but there’s nearly always a clever way to add more value than something like ERROR! PLEASE TRY AGAIN.


What’s an example of really effective microcopy?


BH: 1. Instant Messaging app, Slack, has a found a way to actually make resetting your password fun. 


Slack password reset


2. Instead of keeping with the default label, “Search by keyword or SKU,” REI has chosen to use their brand voice in every imaginable place on their site, including the placeholder text in their search input by giving it the label, “Search for great gear & clothing.”


REI search bar


3. Yelp injects well-branded life and personality into their review rating system.


Yelp one star

Yelp 3 stars

Yelp 5 stars


4. MailChimp’s provides nice user feedback when your password or username is wrong. It’s simple, direct and sets the right branded expectation you come to love about the company.


MailChimp lost username


SQ: I realize these get brought up a lot (and we’d rather avoid them) but IMDb’s poll-driven 404 ERROR messages are a joy.They’re on brand, they’re clever, and they effectively soften the blow of not finding what you were looking for. At least, they would for me!


IMDb 404 error message


In keeping with the theme, how would you express your feelings about microcopy in one word?


BH: Enrichment. It’s the details that can transform any mundane/default experience into a personalized, thoughtful and engaging interaction/memory for the user. An experience that says we know who you are and we are speaking to YOU.


SQ: Opportunity. Microcopy presents you with the opportunity to express a brand’s personality in a clever, engaging and functional way. It can sometimes be difficult distilling a message down into a few interesting and engaging words, but the payoff is worth the effort.


Microcopy matters. It directs traffic, it delivers information, it influences decisions. Microcopy enriches the user experience and presents an opportunity to reinforce the brand voice.


What’s not to love?


If you’ve got any issues, questions or opinions about microcopy, we’re more than happy to address your issues, answer your questions or listen to your opinions.  We’re here for you.


Get in touch with us.