Why great web design needs great copywriting

03. Copy is content

While not every site will include a blog or feature articles, most will have at least some textual content, even if just a paragraph in the About Us section. Text as content is where you encounter the true craft of writing, and there's no shame in hiring a professional. Regardless of whether you use a copywriter or not, the important thing is that your design factors in the writing earlier rather than in the later stages.

Image courtesy of 'Blue Bottle Coffee — Our Story'

Image courtesy of 'Blue Bottle Coffee — Our Story'

Blue Bottle's Our Story is a great example of how clever copy can elicit an emotional response while still serving a practical purpose. The war story from medieval times sticks in the reader's minds while giving the brand credibility from its centuries-old brewing techniques.

It's now common knowledge that users will not read every word on your site, and the more blocks of text they see, the more likely they are to scan for what they're looking for (we actually describe the patterns in the free ebook Web Design for the Human Eye).

That's why the content must be framed in a way to facilitate this by applying visual design techniques like:

  • clearly defined rows and columns
  • proper spacing between letters, words, lines, and paragraphs for legibility, readability, and vertical rhythm
  • adequate white space to relax the eyes

Again, avoiding lorem ipsum will help accurately account for these details early on in design.

04. Copy creates tone and personality

What you say isn't always as important as how you say it.

Phrasing, tone, and word choice all affect the personality the site design exudes (it's all a part of the same design persona), and given that words are likely the main avenue for communication, the implications are great. It's not enough that the tone match the visuals – the tone has to match the product as well.

The writing is, after all, the product's voice.

Image courtesy of Conroy Simberg

Image courtesy of Conroy Simberg

Pay attention to the word choice and tone of the website for Conroy Simberg. As a law firm, they must uphold a certain identity. Words like "defense" and "fights for," plus phrases like "the gloves are off" and "high quality representation," all further this tenacious identity.

So, too, do the graphics (angular shapes in what looks like concrete) and typographical choices (all capitals, and a no-nonsense font), making this site a good example of copywriting working with visuals to convey a unified message to users.

Imagine how out of place more casual words like "Welcome! When it comes to your rights, we know what's right!" would look on this site. Probably as out of place as this site's language would look on a site for crayons.

Conclusion

Copywriting shouldn't be something developed on an island that's shipped over to the rest of the design, where it must be forcibly inserted, losing bits and pieces along the way.

When we say copy is a design element, we mean that, as such, it will benefit the design most when working synchronously with the visual and interactive design. While tempting, and somewhat easier, to develop each element individually then jam them together at the end, the overall design is more consistent when the copywriting, visuals, information architecture, etc., all work together in harmony.

Download this free book today

Download this free book today

Maybe the designer is right is saying they're not writers, but they are undoubtedly orchestrators – understanding how each piece fits together as a whole is always a part of that role.

If you'd like to learn more about the designing copy for the web, check out our free 100-page e-book Interaction Design Best Practices: Words, Visuals Space. 30+ examples are analyzed from companies like AirBnB, Google, Yahoo, Github, and others.

Words: Jerry Cao

Jerry Cao is a content strategist at UXPin — the wireframing and prototyping app.

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