It amazes me that sometimes I arrive at a website and I have no idea what it is I’m looking at.
Why am I here? What is this thing? Why is this important to me? What am I supposed to do next?
I need clarity.
For those of you who write copy for websites, clarity is the thing you’re meant to achieve. Your users rely on you to guide them through the site experience and get them where they need to go. They’re short on time and just want to do the damn thing and move on with their lives. Distilling the purpose of the site and each of its pages into a focused, intuitive experience sounds daunting, but it’s extremely doable.
To make things easy for your users — and for yourself — you just need to remember a few tips.
1. Identify the purpose of each page.
When a user arrives at your page, they should know exactly what it’s all about, even if on an intuitive level.
The best thing you can do to achieve this is to define the purpose of the page up front. Decide what it’s supposed to accomplish and how it helps the user find their way to the information or call-to-action they need.
For home pages, you want users to feel like they’ve come to the right place — that they’re where they’re supposed to be. You’re orienting them to the rest of the site. Focus on one immediate message and don’t clutter things up.
Tell them as succinctly as possible what your brand is and what it does for users like them. A pithy slogan might sound cool, but it might not mean anything to someone who doesn’t even know what your brand is, exactly.
It’s best to keep things plain and err on the straightforward side. For example: “InQuest is a brand strategy agency.” If you can’t define your business that simply, you might have bigger problems.
You can repeat this approach for other pages on your site. (ThriveHive has a great guide on this.)
For about pages, tell your users the story of why you exist and familiarize them with who you are. For contact pages, make it easy to get in touch. For product pages, build credibility and sell users on why your product or service provides value.
No matter what, make sure you know what the page is supposed to accomplish and evaluate how clear that is to the user.
2. Speak to the user one-on-one
People can tell when you’re trying to sound fancy. Period.
Not only does corporate tone and jargon undermine your credibility, but it also clouds your message and confuses your users. These days, it pays to give it to ‘em straight.
The best way to accomplish this is by writing as if you’re speaking to someone face to face. Now, you can still be professional — you don’t need to throw in a bunch of slang or curse words (though it works for some brands) — but the simpler and more conversational you can make the language, the better.
If you can read your site copy out loud and feel you’ve gotten the message across without things sounding awkward or long-winded, you’ve done your job.
Meet people where they are. If they would have trouble understanding what you’re saying in a sales pitch or conversation over a pint, they sure aren’t going to go for it on your website where they have the option of clicking “x” whenever they want.
In addition, addressing the user directly by writing in the second-person helps personalize the experience and draw the user in. Plenty of brands talk about “we,” but most people want to hear about “you.”
Talk to them and their needs.
3. Tell the user what’s in it for them
This might be the most important part of the whole site, as you’ll have a hard time converting if you can’t convince your user that the thing you sell solves their problem (and solves it better, without the hassle of those other guys, etc).
Try to look at your brand from your users’ point of view. They’ve searched the web for something to solve their problem. They’ve gotten to your site. Now, they want to know how you can help.
You can either give them a bunch of preamble about how you’ve been providing excellent customer service in the automotive industry for over thirty years or you can look them in the eye and shoot them straight with, “Your check engine light just came on. We’ll have you in and out in 30 minutes.”
Address the problem directly.
If you don’t know what that problem is, think about it. Is your translation app super easy to use — just point your camera at a sign and translate? Do you save people hours of proposal writing by generating one with their branding in minutes? Find the user’s pain point. Say the thing that instantly makes them feel relief.
And leave it at that.
4. Say what you need to — nothing more
People don’t want your brand’s life story right when they get to your website. We’re sorry. No one cares.
They want to know what this is, why it matters for them, and what they need to do next.
With that in mind, keep your headers and copy as concise as you can. Drill down to the core message and deliver just that. Respect the user’s time and energy.
In practice, this means a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Use headers to summarize and act as signposts through the site.
- Move your brand’s story to the about page for people who want to learn more.
- Make your product’s benefits scannable, whether that’s through headers, quick sentences or bullet points.
Most importantly, make sure there are super easy-to-follow steps on what to do next. Think of the landing experience like this:
- The user finds your site
- You tell the user who you are
- You show the user why it matters for them
- You give the user a call-to-action to get in touch
Heck, you can even do this all in one hero block without any scrolling required, like the below folks do. In any case, you should make it easy for the customer to hire you or buy your product.
5. Show them what to do next
This section covers the holy grail of conversion — the call to action. It seems like a simple enough step, but you’d be surprised how many folks out there hamstring their own sales.
Chances are the user has gotten to your site because they are either researching how to give you their money or just cut to the chase. Do not make this hard for them.
If the user can’t find your equivalent of a ‘Buy Now!’ button, whether it’s a (short) contact form, pricing button, upload link, etc., or worse — it’s buried under mountains of copy — you’re losing sales.
You’ve spent enough time on the site tailoring your message to their specific pain point, so now all you need to do is give your user the answer. It can be a button, it can be an email address, it can be a phone number — whatever it is, give them the next step in the process.
It’s the only way to convert.
In terms of placement, right after your initial pitch on your landing page is a great place to start, but it’s not a bad idea to throw these opportunities in other major sections. If you’ve just explained your products, it’s a good time to follow up with a contact, buy or ‘get a quote’ button.
Like most things web copy-related, just don’t overdo it.