Why you need to smash your web copy and rebuild it stronger.

Posted on July 11, 2016 By

I used to love the 6 Million Dollar man as a kid. Lee Majors starred as astronaut Steve Austen who, severely injured in a flying accident, is reassembled using ‘bionics’ to make a better, stronger, faster person.

To create bionic web copy sometimes you need to smash it up and rebuild it too.

We get a zing of anticipation as we unzip the design folders for a new website. But often that excitement is dashed by serried ranks of text boxes indicating uniform looking grey lines of text.

077-01We all know readers are highly distracted. It’s a challenge for even the best copy to keep them reading. So writers need to do more to break up text with new elements and interesting patterns.

Don’t rely on designers. They often see copy as a chunk of stuff without making a judgement whether it’s good or bad.

Here are some ideas to help you create more engaging webpages.

Start with a bold intro

That first paragraph is key to keeping attention. An overview in a few lines that capture a problem, a solution and a benefit for your reader are some of the things you might include. Our post on a smokin’ intro will give you one idea.

Also, make it bold literally. Show the digital design team that this page will be more effective if the first para stands out typographically in bigger, bolder, more colourful type.

Use subheads that tell a story

Skim readers find subheads compelling if they tell a story. You can guide readers through a page on subheads alone if you’re smart.

What makes a good subhead for skim readers? One with a verb in it – then it has action and starts to tell a story. Look at any newspaper and see how verbs make headlines work.

If we’re writing a financial website, writing a subhead that says ‘Regular investments beat lump sums’ tells a lot more of the story than one that says ‘Regular investments’.

Don’t do lists in text

Sounds obvious but people get bored reading lists in paragraphs. Far better to pull them out as bullets and put them in a panel.

We were doing work for a hospital website. They had loads of whizz-bang medical kit. In a paragraph of text all the excitement was lost. But in a panel of bullets we were able to include more stuff. It looked more impressive. And as a user you could ‘see’ they had loads of kit without having to read the list.

Don’t park your testimonials on one page

Testimonials are very convincing. All too often they’re stuffed on a page called testimonials, which is easy to ignore. Persuade your client to dig some out and pepper them throughout your pages.

It’s also a great way to visually break up text with something more human. We recently wrote some lovely case studies for the Arts Council England which dramatically broke up the text.

Find your Gary

Huh? We’ve been doing some work for a university, again blessed with some fabulous facilities. But rather than describe them as ‘state-of-the-art’ or ‘cutting edge’, we went and talked to the technical lead for the facility in question (Gary) and did a mini interview.

People like hearing from experts. They add credibility. Gary gave us some great soundbites on the benefits of using the facilities.

And again the interview can be broken out into a panel that helps it stand out. Our tip here is to physically show designers what you mean by putting it in a text box.

Create new bits that add to your story

Do some research. If you’re writing a travel site don’t just put ‘local cuisine’ because that’s what the client told you. Find an example. Maybe turn it into a recipe.

Smash everything until you find the interesting bits.

Think about your copy as a set of elements that appeal to readers in different ways. Dramatise each one: a hot intro, a stand-out quote, a super-detailed list. And put them together in a bionic combination that gives you six million dollar copy.

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This post was written by Richard Spencer