You might be getting a new website built or redesigning an old one but in either case you’ll be asking the same question, “What text do we put on the website?” It’s a tricky question for a few reasons:
- It’s easy to look at someone else’s website and critique their content but it’s not so easy to create your own.
- You have a blank canvas which sounds great but makes the starting point incredibly hard.
- If you do manage to start writing web copy, you may question, how much detail should you provide and how long should it be?
- Lastly, you’ll look at what you’ve written and may find that it’s a great essay but not great website copy.
Apart from that, a million other factors come into play such as tone of voice, design, the length of the copy and its structure which makes the idea of writing great web copy and producing an engaging website even trickier, but it doesn’t have to be. Just so you know, I’m not a professional copywriter, I am a professional web designer and I’ve had to edit tons of copy in my time for both web design and print design, and this article was written to give you some idea about how to engage users with website copy.
As a web designer who puts these pages of text together, I have a unique viewpoint on how copy should be written and how it should be played out. I edit this copy with sales and marketing techniques, combine it with great graphic design and produce an overall engaging experience for the reader in the form of a webpage.
The point of this article is not about writing good copy but about how to use your copy effectively because we’re not all great copy writers but by editing, tweaking, and structuring the copy that you do produce, your web designer can make it into an engaging online experience that works.
To do this we need to learn a little bit about the background of web pages, web design and user interactions so this article will be going over the following points:
- The strategy of user interaction, engaging copy and web design
- The goal of all webpages
- The hierarchy of webpages
- Creating a Goal for your Webpage
- Writing for readers
The strategy of creating engaging website copy and web design
Today the introduction of all content is a “feed.”
- Blog posts are not pages but “excerpts” to “entries”
- AdWords allows 25 letters to get a “click through”
- Twitter focuses on the strength of a “single line” to attract a reader.
- All great web pages are landing pages with click through buttons
- The call to action is still the strongest element on a webpage, symbolised by a button with one or two words such as “buy now” or “find out more”
Everything is smaller, shorter and quicker and rightly so. With the mass of information available, we’re simply not focused enough to take all of it in. Our attention spans are shorter and we want to find what we want as quick as possible.
The first point to remember when trying to produce an engaging web site or web copy is that the length of copy for a webpage doesn’t matter. What really matters is how you edit it and structure it to make it engaging.
Inform quickly by keeping everything in quick small chunks with straplines to attract the reader whether it be a homepage or a sub level page full of text. Break it down into sections to make it easily digestible.
If it’s too long as one singular piece, then break it down into sections or two or three pieces if demanded because if it feels too long for its purpose then it may just be ignored for something quicker. Let’s define the purpose now.
The Goal of all engaging Web Pages
Whether it’s a YouTube page, a Facebook post, a services page for a business or a checkout page in a store, the universal goal of any webpage is to inform, entertain and influence the reader. They are the very reasons why a user will visit your site and you’re looking to do all three aspects in one webpage in order to engage them.
Your website visitor came to your site for a reason, they want a problem to be solved. That problem might be fixed by an entertaining video to end their boredom, your expert information to help their business or even a product you sell to solve their problem. The bottom line is that they want information of some sort to fulfil their needs, otherwise they would not have come.
There’s a really good chance that your visitor may see your information and think that it just looks horrible. It might be hard to read, no accompanying material or just an untrustworthy source. To stop them from leaving you need to entertain your website visitors. This could be done by way of good design and creating an enhanced website experience. Don’t get it twisted, it doesn’t mean there has to be bells and whistles within your design. Being entertaining might just mean making a good impression. It could just mean being neat, tidy and professional, letting your copy do all the talking but in any case, it means that the content needs to be presentable and entertain the user enough to engage with them and keep them on the site.
All web pages need to influence the user in order to get a positive reaction out of them and you can’t get a reaction without informing or entertaining them. If you don’t inform and entertain then the result is a bad influence, leading to a bad reaction where the user found your webpage un-entertaining and left the site. A good influence and reaction is that the reader found your site, was compelled to stay, read and explore, carried out an action (a sale maybe) and then returns again another day.
Your second tip to creating an engaging website and web copy is to keep information and entertainment at the heart of all your writing and design in order to influence the reader and engage with them. When you write something, read it back and ask, is it informative? Is it entertaining? Likewise, when you look at the webpage.
The hierarchy of webpages and your web copy
Before you begin writing you need to understand that different types of website copy work well for different types of website pages and there are many types of website pages. There are homepages, sales pages, about us pages, category pages, product pages and check-out pages to name a few, and all pages sit within a hierarchy.
- The homepage is the primary page
- Top level pages are pages that feature on your menu e.g. About Us, Services, Contact Us, Category Pages
- Sub level pages are ones which feature below the top-level pages e.g. Our Approach, Specific Services, products
The hierarchy is there to help your users explore your site but also specify how detailed your web copy needs to be. The deeper a user goes into a site, the more specific content it is that they want. This enables you to create goals for each webpage, specify how much detail is needed and what the functionality of each page really is. If we take into account the hierarchy it means that the homepage needs to be a general overview and more detailed info can be given on sub-level pages.
To create engaging web copy and websites, figure out where your page and copy sites within the hierarchy and what’s the point of that webpage and your website copy.
This will help set the style, length and tone of website copy for every webpage you create.
Creating a Goal for your Webpage
In the past, many clients have said to me “I don’t know what to write for the webpage until I’ve seen the web design.” In this scenario the client is trying to use the graphic design and layout to justify the existence of their webpage, and sometimes clients want to use the web design and layout as inspiration for their web copy. This signifies that you don’t know what the point of your page is, making it extremely hard to create web copy, a web design or set it within a hierarchy to engage your reader.
To solve, you need to remember that Content is king! The point of your webpage is the message that you want to give with your website copy and the end goal that you want the reader to reach.
To help set a goal let’s look at the most common types of web pages and how they use website copy:
A landing page is any page used to enter your site but it’s generally referred to as a homepage or a page that’s been tactically designed for users to land on. Landing pages may give a generic overview of something and are pages which have many “click through” buttons to push users to other specific parts of the site.
Squeeze Pages, Sales Pages & Sign-Up Pages
A squeeze page or sales page might be a landing page but its end goal and structure are different to a homepage. These pages are usually a single page with copy and buttons persuading users to carry out one single action such as “Buy Now” or “Sign-Ups.”
Primary Level Pages
A primary level page might be a regular page that’s featured in your main menu such as a services page or about us page. It’s a page that people visit after the landing page and it’ll be a page that’s also used to give an overview of something.
Sub Level pages
A sub level page is one that might be featured in a drop-down menu or a page that’s linked to from a primary page. It’s a page which is more specific to the reader.
The differentiators between each style of page is its functionality and end goal. That is the pinpoint for the next tip to creating engaging websites and web copy. Forget about web design and layout for now, just think about the goal of the webpage.
Do you want this page to?
- Make a sale
- Create a signup
- Create click throughs to other pages
Whether it’s a homepage, services page or about us page, figure out what the point of the page is and what it is you want the reader to do when they’re on that page. Once you have a goal, you can start writing the copy.
Writing web copy for readers
A user will find your website via a referral of some kind, whether it be a search engine link, a referral from another website or even an offline referral. In any case, the content based around that referral was the reason why the reader chose to visit your site. They had a specific problem that they want to solve and your website allegedly has the answer.
Meeting user’s expectations helps to create engaging content because it means that they found what they were looking for. All you have to do with your content is confirm it.
Figure out what is it that:
– Your user wants to know
– Your user should know
A user types in to google: “brand design agency” and upon landing on your site…
What your users want to know and see is: We’re a brand design agency
What your readers should know: We’re an award-winning brand design agency.
That’s quite a simplistic example for an opening statement on a website (hero header) but when it comes to more specific pages or paragraphs of text you would do well to remember that your users are not dumb. There’s no need to explain every detail of your service on a homepage or landing page. Keep that for blog posts and sub level pages.
Conclusion to creating engaging websites and web copy
To create an overall online experience, you ned to merge web copy and web design together to form one final piece of art that engages an audience but it all starts with the web copy itself.
Takeaway points to create an engaging website and copy:
- What’s the Goal of the web page?
- Where will it sit in the hierarchy?
- What do your users want to know?
- What should your users know?
- Content is King
- Inform with your web copy
- Entertain with your content
- Influence with your content
- The length of copy doesn’t matter to begin with
- Edit it into shorter, digestible chunks
- Use sub headings and straplines
- Inform quickly
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