Microcopy: why it’s time to sweat the small stuff (but not too much)

Every button, call to action and 404 page is your chance to make mundane messages memorable for members. Here’s what the Lib Dems can teach us all about making the most of microcopy

In short

  • Surprising and visual content can help you stay in character
  • Well-used microcopy can give your organisation a human face
  • Clarity is key, so use micro messages carefully and don’t try to be too clever

Whether it’s quotes of the day at tube stations or quirky messages on coffee cups, we humans delight in life’s little details. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m advocating that you all send quotes of the day to members or follow Dropbox’s lead (they have 27,000 micro messages across their website alone). But, by staying in character with every word you write, you can create loyalty – and have a little fun along the way.

The Liberal Democrats have mastered microcopy.

It’s surprising: Type in the wrong link and you might just get Theresa May’s face on their 404 page:

It’s encouraging and confidence boosting: Every button on their website makes you feel part of something:


It’s personal: Every touchpoint is a conversation. Direct, but human:

It’s visual (where appropriate): Still looking at Theresa May’s face? Yep, so are we!

Used well, microcopy can encourage members to keep going with membership surveys or click through to an article instead of giving your email a cursory glance.

But, a word of caution! As anyone who has ever heard the toilet message on Virgin trains will know, there is such a thing as being a bit too clever (I no longer wish to hear about flushing my hopes and dreams down the loo) and what sounds good once, might not stack up when it gets a second airing.

Sometimes, the Ronseal approach is best.

My advice to you all would be to use microcopy sparingly, focus on clarity (not being too clever), choose a style and stick to it and randomise messages or change them regularly to make things interesting.

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