Writing the dull bits of your website

There are 2 levels of copywriting required for most sites, it’s always seemed to me, and a project I’ve been working on this week reminded me of this. The more obvious level is that of the site content itself; in other words, all the stuff you have to say about your business. The less obvious level. however, is that of the site ‘infrastructure’, of its navigation labels, its directions and instructions, its alerts and its system emails.

It’s this second level that a lot of people forget about when they look after their own site, or when they bought the development of their site as an ad hoc purchase, and have no ongoing maintenance.

It’s this level of copywriting, however, which in a lot of ways says the most about your operation. Sure, it doesn’t carry the information about who you are and what you do, but it DOES say a lot about how much you care about looking after your customers, and about how painstaking is your attention to detail.

The good news is, this kind of copy is easy to audit, and easy to improve.

You need to set aside an afternoon (yeah, I know!) and work your way through all the function of your site. If it’s a small site it might take you just an hour or so. Hit every button, and submit every form. Do everything that a user could possibly do on your site. If it’s a commerce enabled site that includes, most importantly, going all the way through the purchase process. Make every possible occurrence occur. If, while you’re doing this, you notice any line of type anywhere, giving directions, or saying ‘Thank You’, or doing any other little housekeeping task, think about whether it’s worded accurately, and in the tone of voice you want to speak with. If it’s not, note down where it is on the site (page, position etc), and what you’d like it to say. At the end of the session, you’ll have a list to pass to whoever takes care of your site, or to implememnt yourself if that’s you.

If you’re using an outside web developer, a list like this will make these changes easy to locate and implement, and therefore cheap to do.

Last thing. Don’t just think about copy that’s already there, and whether it’s right.

Think about copy that isn’t there at all, and whether a sentence here or there in the user process might not make your site easier or more pleasing to use, and convey an altogether better impression of your business.