Vilnius 2019 notes: Microcopy
Write the Docs Vilnius 2019 saw some excellent talks. Somewhat belatedly, I'm writing up my notes. Here's the first.
Speaker: Hadas Khen
- Microcopy is a few select words in the UI. Think of it as mini help text.
- It should relate to user actions, such as completing a form:
- Before: motivate
- During: instruct
- After: feedback
- Think about voice and tone, just like you would for your documentation or marketing copy.
- Consider your target audience:
- What are they trying to accomplish with your software?
- What is their "culture of use": their tech level, environment, reading level and so on.
- View your software from the user's perspective. A new user encountering unclear text results in frustration.
- Avoid fluff, don't be rude, be human.
- Consider: quantity, tone, placement, timing and result.
Error messages are a particularly difficult type of microcopy, as they usually appear in situations where the user is already frustrated.
- Bad error messages disrupt and frustrate the user, and add to support strain.
- Good error messages do the following:
- State the problem
- Indicate what went wrong
- Provide a solution
- Be clear, practical, calm, and keep it simple.
- Consider progressive disclosure: a simple error message with the option for the user to read more. This keeps the UI clean but allows interested users to dig deeper.
- Your error messages are your first line of customer support. Be professional (and don't blame the user).