Writing Helpful Web Copy – A Minimalism Checklist
August 22, 2006 • Glenn Murray
Are you losing business because of your website? More and more customers are logging on to the Web to decide where to spend their money because it is quick and convenient, and they can jump from site to site instead of walking from store to store.
Web savvy customers don’t need to be patient, studies have shown that you need to engage a potential customer very quickly by giving them easy, fast access to the information they need. Otherwise they will simply move on to the next site.
Appealing design and speedy functionality are important but they don’t ensure that your site is well structured (intuitive) or well written (clear).
The real message on most websites is in the writing, and so it makes sense that the writing should determine the structure. Unfortunately, this is not the usual case. Most businesses choose the structure and design of their site first and then try and fit the writing around that structure. This flies in the face of commonsense. When you speak to someone, you structure your speech around your message, you don’t decide on a structure then change the message to suit. So you need to plan what you want to say before you create the site. Maybe even write the whole thing first and then use the message to determine the structure.
When deciding what to write, think about what your customer wants to know rather than what you want to say. It’s a subtle difference, but it is the key to engaging a potential customer.
Most customers will want to know the basics:
- What do you do?
- What benefit can you offer them?
- Why should they choose your service or product?
- What does it cost?
- How can they contact you?
- Where are you located?
Brevity & Clarity
Your website has to communicate a lot of information and to make matters worse, you are going to have limited space. Ideally, your customer won’t have to scroll on any page (all your information will fit in a single window) and that single view will need to contain more than just words. The design and navigation elements take up about a third of a window, and you should leave a bit of room for white space (you don’t want to overwhelm the customer). As a rule of thumb you should expect to have about half the window free for text.
How you are going to fit all your information in such a confined space? This is where writing skills come in – choose your words very carefully.
Websites can be an extremely powerful piece of marketing collateral. You can reach millions of potential customers for as little as a few hundred dollars. Unfortunately, your competitors are all doing the same thing – it’s a level playing field but there are a lot of players.
It is important that your message is structured and well thought out, otherwise your site will be a mess and no-one will bother to read about your business. If your message is clear, your site will be simple and easy to use. It’s all in the words.