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copywriting tips

Tips by Famous Writers for Good Copy Content

Creating high-quality content for the digital product is the issue of the same importance as thought-out design and careful bugless development. Copy is what makes design even more powerful breathing deeper life and sense into the webpage or app screen. Copy is information. And information, as it is known well, is the tool of incredible diversity and the key to many doors.

 

William G. Pollard once wrote: «Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.» Working with copy content for digital products, writers get even closer to the issue, as the texts they usually write are aimed at supporting the goals set behind a particular product, mostly solving problems or improving lives. Good copy strengthens design significantly, poor copy is able to kill great design solutions and hours spent creating code for the app of website.

 

One of our previous articles here in Tubik Blog was devoted to the topic of copywriting for UI. Today we would like to continue this theme with the set of practical and useful tips on writing from famous and recognized authors. They performed successfully in different genres of literature, mostly fiction, still many tips they give generally about organization of writing process, creative approaches and self-critique are applicable and useful for copy content of all kinds. Let’s review the first set and chalk them up for creating high-quality and user-friendly copy.

 

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You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. (Jack London)

 

In one of our articles with tips for designers we have already unveiled this aspect of creative job, and the ideas which were offered are also fair for writers, especially those, who are working within particular tasks and products rather than in free creative flow. Creative people often say that they cannot work without necessary inspiration: they are just waiting for the muse which will help them to find the best solution. Like it or hate it, but muse which doesn’t arrive on time is not the reasonable explanation of broken deadlines or inappropriate result. Therefore, if you want to have the serious name and get respected by the clients, if you set the goal to have constant flow of projects and earn more and more, find the ways to call your muse when you need it, not waiting when it wants to come. By the way, the process of research and writing drafts is one of great ways. Appetite comes with eating, muse comes with working.

 

Write drunk, edit sober. (Ernest Hemingway)

 

That is another absolute truth for writers of any kind. Certainly, drunk is not meant literally here, still any writer knows that feeling of being a bit besotted by the idea under writing. When you caught the necessary state and vibe, you often see and feel the whole piece of writing in your mind and will wish not to stop until the last line is dropped on paper or screen. That’s the stage of pure creativity and it would be a big mistake to interrupt it: don’t hesitate, get dip into the process and write until the last full stop is reached. Still never ever show the result to the public: always take time to review and edit with sober and concentrated mind. This will let you see the small mistakes, misprints, duplication, poorly structured sentences and phrases. This will enable you to provide your reader with high-quality well-structured copy, which is the highest form of respect. So, in other words, write with hot heart, but edit with cold head.

 

The first draft of everything is shit. (Ernest Hemingway)

 

One more rule by Hemingway clearly echoes the previous tip. Always take the draft as just a draft. Any piece of writing needs revision, not only in the aspect of minor errors or technical alterations, but also reviewing the text thoughtfully after the first wave of inspiration has washed away and common sense comes into play. Review allows enhancing the initial idea with analysis, enables to feel the integrity and unity of general performance, estimate the appropriateness of stylistic elements and hierarchy of the elements etc.

 

The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like… So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter. (Neil Gaiman)

 

It’s quite easy to imagine this state of things for fiction writers, who mostly choose the theme and genre by themselves, but there will be many people saying that it’s impossible for copywriters: they write what they are told to write. Still, in this sphere the impact of sincerity and creative passion hasn’t been cancelled. Certainly, a great professional master will create copy for sometimes highly diverse themes: the trick is that in most cases this amazing proficiency level will be supported with the writer’s natural diversity and curiosity as well as broad outlook. People, knowing a lot, with lively and constantly learning minds, are able to get sincerely inspired by various issues and tasks. The best bloggers and copywriters are the ones who write on topics they really believe in and have something to share about — in this case, they have that great courage to write honestly and feel what the readers need to get from them. Finding your themes and strengthening in them has a huge benefit of getting tasks and being paid for writing on topics you really feel yours.

 

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Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever. (Will Self)

 

Certainly, in present-day reality notebook can get transformed into a laptop, the tablet, the simple app for taking notes on the mobile phone — it doesn’t matter.  What does matter is being able to take a note any moment a fresh thought important to remember comes to mind. Sometimes it happens you come up with a brilliant solution or word combination, the brand name or great headline being far from your workplace and that is not the reason to lose it. As well as it doesn’t mean you should stop anything you’re doing if the good thought on work issues occurs to you suddenly. A small note, a couple of words taken down anywhere will really help. They will save the thought, will set the small tag to enable the writer pull it out and use at the moment when it’s convenient. Many writers know this small secret is an effective step to creative productivity.

 

Always be a poet, even in prose. (Charles Baudelaire)

 

The tip can seem a bit unrealistic for non-fiction writing. However, it definitely works. Words are the great tool transforming not only sense and information, but also voice, tone and mood. One of the big mistakes about copywriting is thinking that it doesn’t present such a wide field of expressiveness and imagery as writing fiction or big publicist works. Vise versa: in vast majority cases, copywriting requires high and intensive creative word processing as texts are mostly concise and restricted with many limitations and still they need to inform users, create necessary mood, transform information and often — persuade or touch some sensitive layers of perception. Lots of mechanisms and methods used by fiction writers and poets can be applied in copywriting: synonyms, idioms, metaphors and metonymies, alliterations and assonance, hyperbolas and litotes, anaphoras and epiphoras added thoughtfully and properly to the copy let it reveal new shades of the textual content. They can make the copy more creative, more vivid, more human-like and original. Furthermore, they enable the author to set the unique style of writing that will get recognizable, which is in particular need for those who create quite big texts for websites and blogs, advertising materials or presentations. Being a poet means adding an original creative spark to what is written.

 

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When you can’t create, you can work. (Henry Miller)

 

Copywriting is not only creativity. It is also analysis and learning, obtaining knowledge about object and spheres the copy is created about, researching and testing the created copy, editing and proof-reading. There is always plenty of work, even for the moments, when you do not feel yourself flying on the strong wings of inspiration. One more thing to mention: creativity gets stronger with practice. If your mood today is not creative, then set the practical tasks for yourself and make your skills better for the moment you muse comes to help you.

 

You can fix anything but a blank page. (Nora Roberts)

 

In creative work, sometimes the only thing which is needed is taking the first step. Have you ever experienced the moment at an exam or test when you see the task and feel the surge of panic: «I know nothing on that! That’s total failure! Nothing to say! No single word!» and then after a minute or two, getting calmer and colder, you bring out the best of your potential and give the good answer? Supposedly, many people went through that. And this is the part of creative routine, in particular working with copy, which can go through the variety of stages, from «I don’t know anything on this topic» to «There are tons of texts on that, how can I create something unique and original…». The secret is simple: start writing. Any result of the process will stimulate your creative force. Perhaps, you will create something horrible that will obviously need rewriting, and that will be the result also: you will know what is definitely inappropriate for this task and feel how to fix it. Just turn the key with the first line to start the ignition.

 

Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life. (E. B. White)

 

This is particularly true for copywriters. In most cases, they don’t have the luxury just to reflect the life as well as their own thoughts and feelings. Their key professional aim is to inform people, sometimes to educate and give instructions, guide and help, solve problems and persuade, to shape values and stimulate opinions. This is not the set of pathetic expressions, this is a real ground for the great responsibility a copywriter bears every day. Considering it and forming the professional approach with deep respect to the readers provides useful and thoughtful copy.

 

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Do not … address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client. (David Ogilvy)

 

This secret from the guru of copywriting has survived through several epochs of information and technology revolutions without any slight change. Readers still are keen to read something which they feel helpful and sincere, which appeals to them and brings a pinch or loads of actual usefulness or enjoyment.  As well as they do feel hypocrisy and purely technical approach to creating texts.

 

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. (David Ogilvy)

 

The principles of visual hierarchy have set strong rules for writers, journalists and editors for many decades, being transformed and revised for copy content created for digital products. It’s vital to remember: the text on a webpage or screen should be easily scannable and skimmable. And the first thing scanned by users is headlines. They need as much (if not more!) attention as the rest of copy. No wonder: in most cases headline is a crucial element of making the decision, it stimulates the reader to spent more precious minutes on further reading and creates first vibes of tone and style.

 

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If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. (David Ogilvy)

 

Writing for readers, know your readers. Using inappropriate style and language is able to destroy the chances of creating the text that will get target readers interested and wishing to read more. Surely, that doesn’t mean going to oversimplification and making your copy primitive aka clear for everyone. It means keeping the balance and making the text you create natural, first of all for the core target audience. So, definition and research of target readers is the important part of copywriting routine, preferably on pre-writing stage of working out a particular task.

 

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. (Stephen King)

 

It’s not a secret that practice makes perfect. Reading a lot, you get passive practice; writing a lot you level up you active writing skills. Both are crucially important for broadening professional horizons and setting up creative sails for every wind.

 

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Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. (Kurt Vonnegut)

 

People, reading the copy you write, trust you the most precious of their resources: their time. Consider that,  respect their time and effort, make use of that time and do it in smart and elegant way — your readers will be grateful and happy while you will get this respect back in professional recognition.

 


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Copywriting in UI. Words that Make Design Go Round

Here in Tubik Blog we have discussed a lot of diverse aspects of design, including UX wireframing, layout, color pallete, typography, appropriate animation and UI visuals etc. However, there is one vital element which was not discussed in detail, being, however, a great tool of success. The tool which is as ancient as humanity is. The words.

 

Words are well known as the universal mechanism of incredible functionality. In terms of user interface of any kind, being supported with all the other visual features mentioned before in our blog, text becomes one of the key features to successful performance.

 

The essence of copy

 

Not to mess up with the terminology, it has to be mentioned that in the field of design (as well as advertising and journalism) content written in text is called copy whenever big or small it is. The only single word you write on the call-to-action is already a piece of copy which, even being so small, can become encouraging or vise versa — confusing.

 

Although in terms of design we can get more concentrated on visual elements such as illustrations, icons, buttons, animations, colors and shapes, neglecting the aspect of copy while creating the interface can bring out great disappointment in final result. Words cannot be fully replaced with the graphics whatever amazing, high-quality and professional they are going to be. Therefore, copy should be thoughtfully analyzed and created in a way supporting general design concept and enhancing positive user experience via successful interaction.

 

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Copy is the integral part of UI

 

Taking into account the fact that web page has rather limited while mobile application screen has highly limited amount of space that can be used for interaction elements, copy should witness elaborate and professional approach. That is actually amazing when designers are able to do all the work on the interface by themselves – obviously, that’s always great to have a unicorn on-board. However, they are not obliged to do it. Moreover, in many cases being great professionals in design they have difficulty tackling the issue of correct and appropriate copywriting for the screens.

 

This job as well as any other needs special skills and knowledge which designers need to master additionally. It has to be said that a great number of them really go this way, carefully studying the techniques and methods of creating copy that will be informative and engaging for users and at the same time will support all the visual design solutions applied for the screens or pages.

 

The other way to sort out this problem is to engage the professional copywriter in the process. Any way you go, the most important thing in this aspect is to find the way of creating copy for the interface that makes every single letter count. As copy is the integral part of UI design, we believe it should support the same philosophy as any other part of a layout: everything put on the screen or page has to be functional and purposeful. Everything should work for the user.

 

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Functions of copy in the interface

 

Copy belongs to perhaps the most comprehensive and multifunctional ways of interaction and engaging the user, especially when it is created on the basis of psychology and linguistic knowledge as well as deep analysis of target audience and product’s purpose. Efficient copy has a number of general functions, which can be presented altogether in one piece or in different combinations depending on the aim of the copy created. Let’s take a look at the most basic of them.

 

Copy implemented in an application or a website can and should:

— inform

— communicate

— enable interaction

— enhance navigation

— appeal to feelings

— engage emotions

— create tone and voice

 

Good piece of copy rarely covers only one of the presented positions. In vast majority of cases both designers and copywriters are keen to implement the copy which supplies several functions at the same time improving usability and speeding perception of all the content on the screen or page.

 

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Copy is visual

 

One more thing that designers creating interfaces of any kind should always bear in mind is that copy is one more visual element of design. As well as the icons, fields, buttons, illustrations, toggles and the like, it literally occupies the part of the screen or web-page as any other graphic component and influences general stylistic presentation of the app or website. That means that both its informative content and visual presentation significantly affect efficiency of copy. This is the sort of mutual support of outer and inner side.

 

It’s also important to remember that success of the efficient copy directly depends on such design solutions as choice of types and fonts, background, placement of the copy. All the mentioned aspects greatly affect the level of readability, so when they are done inappropriately the copy even being highly meaningful will lose the chance to get all its potential applied.

 

So, let’s see what is the short bottom line here. Copy, which contains useful data but is poorly presented, will not work. Copy, which is visually presented in amazing way but shows the lack in meaning and purpose, will not work. Keep the balance to make everything go round properly. Make meaning and appearance support each other and both aspects will get more powerful in terms of usability.

 

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Stages when copywriting is involved in design process

 

According to everything above mentioned, there are some stages of design process when professional copywriter can become a great help in the process:

 

— creating copy presenting user personas and use cases – done by professional copywriter on the basis of information obtained from user research, they can be more efficient as the text will get concentrated and can be more efficient, especially in terms of teamwork;

-creating copy for call-to action elements;

— creating copy for intro-screens, tutorials and tooltips;

— creating instructions and notifications for screens and webpages;

— creating the copy for sets of catalogue and menu positions;

— creating enganging copy for landing pages;

— creating templates for item descriptions etc.

 

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The list is not a sort of cure-all here – it’s just a recommendation on the points to consider. On the basis of our studio experience, we can say that, in particular, it is useful for design teams which are keen to optimize and improve production so that all the professionals involved in design process could get deep into the work they do best of all and not get distracted with the tasks that are not directly in their skills scope. This sort of strategy usually brings high level of performance. As for freelancers in UI/UX design, working alone, our thoughts can be helpful to consider this sort of aspect and perhaps master some new skills in supporting visual solutions with effective copy.

 

This article is just a start of discussion of the copywriting aspect in the sphere of user experience design. In future posts we will get more in details about all the general aspects mentioned today.


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