Copywriting for Web Designers

Posted on 10/12/2010

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Most web designers did not enter the field for their ability to write elegant, flowery prose. Strong copy however, is essential for your site, and your client’s as well. Let’s face it. You don’t want to drop 20 hours into the design, and have customers turn away after you’ve used the wrong form of the word its. For those of you of the DIY persuasion, here are 10 basic tips to make sure the copy does not detract from that beautiful design:
1. Use correct spelling and grammar—Your Microsoft Word comes with a spell check. Use it. You can also pick up a copy of the AP style guide, there are also other grammar guides out there. If you don’t take the time to learn this, your potential clients will know the difference.
2. Keep it simple—Whether your client is an engineering firm, a restaurant, or the local gym, keep the copy easy to read. If people see too many words they don’t know, they will navigate away and not come back.
3. Avoid information overload—Don’t use pages of narrowly spaced type. Shorter copy that is well spaced is less intimidating.
4. Know the difference—If a word has multiple spellings, you better know the difference. There is there, their and they’re, it’s and its, are and ours. I once saw a college newspaper use the headline “Keeping are campus safe.” That’s embarrassing. Don’t put yourself, or a client in that same position. Especially after all your hard design work.
5. Be specific—Be careful with words like “great,” “nice,” or “awesome.” Say you’re doing a restaurant website. These words don’t describe the meal. “The tangy BBQ sauce over the tender pulled pork” gives your mouth something it can work with.
6. Hook them, and don’t leave them disappointed—There are plenty of studies out there showing just how quick most users will click away from your site if you don’t hook them right away. So make sure you lead with your strongest point and let them finish with something that makes them feel rewarded.
7. Keep your copy simple and organized—Is a paragraph too muddled? Don’t be afraid to break your ten items into a list. It’ll be easier to read that way.
8. Headlines that matter—Make sure your headlines catch customers and help you sell your products and services.
9. The 5 w’s—This staple of journalism has its purpose on the web as well. Make sure that you are giving your customers what they need to know to make an informed decision. This information should be on your home page.
10. Read your copy outloud—I know it sounds silly, and wives and coworkers may laugh at you. It is the best way to catch a clunky sentence, or the wrong use of a word, that may slip through the cracks if you don’t hear it out loud.

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