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Microcopy: How to boost conversion with words

As well as informing the user and improving user experience, interface copy can also be a powerful asset for boosting conversion.

Small words big impact

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Do people actually read on the web?

When Jakob Nielsen researched the topic back in 1997, he found out that only 16 percent of users read a webpage word-by-word, and this was more than 20 years ago. In web standards, it’s like going back to the stone age. As of January 2020, there are 65 times as many internet users compared to 1997.

How Users Read on the Web. Summary: They don't. By Jakob Nielsen, 1997

We’re dealing with increasingly larger amounts of content. The attention spans of our users are becoming more and more scarce.

Should we really care about written content if people don’t read it?

Well, this isn’t exactly how it works. Have a look at this screenshot of the Momondo app, but with all the words blurred out:

The Momondo app interface with no microcopy

As you can see, this isn’t too informative.

As designers, we should be using concise text that helps users achieve their goals. This kind of content in both web and mobile apps is called microcopy. In this article, we’re going to show you how interface copy can improve not only user experience but also increase conversion. A win-win situation, isn’t it?

So, let’s start from the basics:

What is microcopy?

The term microcopy was first coined in 2009 by Joshua Porter, an acclaimed interface designer and the former UX Director at Hubspot.

According to Porter, microcopy is “small yet powerful. [...] It’s the small copy that has the biggest impact.” He refers to short phrases and single words that are a part of the interface.

He realized the importance of those when working on an eCommerce project. Once the checkout form was released, Porter found out that many transactions couldn’t be finalized.

The reason? People weren’t entering their correct billing address.

The solution? A single sentence: