Copy – the Overlooked Element of Web Design

There’s one element of designing a website I find constantly overlooked – the copy, or text, or to put it more simply the words on the page. Even when I go to great pains to explain that a website needs compelling, easy to read text it takes ages to get little, if any copy to add to the site.

I think one of the reasons for this is for most small businesses a website is the first time they’re marketing their business in a medium that allows you to add lots of copy. Think about it – most traditional advertising mediums charge by the column centimeter (or similar) so for much of their advertising there is only a small space to work with. A website changes that, and with unique compelling content (eg copy) helping your search engine rankings suddenly copy is really important. Not that it wasn’t before but you get my drift.

In initial discussions many prospective clients say they’re happy to provide the copy. But when it comes to the crunch it is often easier said than done. Which I understand. Most of them are busy enough running their businesses without having to sit down and put together pages of copy. It’s also not something they usually have a lot of experience with.

These days I find the easiest solution is to write the copy ourselves. As we usually optimise the website as well as build it it works out well. We’re able to write keyword rich, compelling copy that is beneficial to both visitors and search engines. It makes our lives easier and our clients can get on with the job of running their business. Which is what they do best.

Writing Well

I’ve always wanted to write – but never felt I was any good. Yesterday, after penning two blog posts I had a moment when I realised hey maybe my writing’s ok these days. I’m finally able to put across what I want to say using my own “voice”. Well I hope I do anyway. ;)

I got thinking about how I came to that point and what tips I could give to others wanting to write better but aren’t sure how to go about it. If you’re working online being able to write well in your own voice is vital. You’ll spend countless hours emailing anyone from clients and prospective clients to suppliers and contractors. You’ll also need to look at writing your marketing materials such as websites, blogs, newsletters etc. In many instances your main form of communication will be the written word – so make sure you get it right!

So here’s my suggestions for becoming a better writer:

  • Join a forum (related to your industry) and actively participate. You’ll learn how to write clearly and articulately. I’ve been a part of Cre8asite for years and having to put explanations, examples and the like into words has been a great way to develop my writing skills.
  • Strike up email “conversations” with colleagues and friends. Focus on making sure your personality comes through – who wants to talk with a robot?
  • Blog – there’s not better way to refine your style.
  • Learn to speak in a human voice.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

It may take some time but my experience has taught me not only does it become easier it becomes fun. And what’s life without a bit of fun. :)

Are You Dotting Your i’s and Crossing Your t’s?

I’ve been online a long time. At least *cough* 12 years. Back in the early days “netiquitte” was taken really seriously.

The basic rules include:

  • YOU DON’T SHOUT,
  • You don’t quote slabs of text,
  • And my favourite, you check, and correct your spelling and grammar.

I always took the approach that online you are judged by your written word, in the same way that offline you’re judged by your appearance. Would you wear crumpled, dirty clothes and unpolished shoes when meeting with a potential client? I suspect not. So why write an email with no capitalisation, no punctuation and definitely no spell checking?

Now I don’t mean to be uptight, and I do appreciate that online communication is far less formal that the old written letter (thank heaven’s), but in my opinion if you can’t add an apostrophe to a word, or end a sentence with a full stop, I’ll suspect you don’t polish your shoes either. ;)

Keep in mind a few minutes making sure your written words are “polished” could be the difference between a sale or no sale.