Yesterday, I was delighted by a few language-related articles which were featured on the BBC’s News site. One in particular should be music to the ears of Web service professionals everywhere: Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales.
The article reports data and deals with issues which we, as an industry, have come to dread: late and lacklustre online content, bad Web copy, and the lack of trust that comes from it.
Here is my take on the problem and why I think professional writers are a must for every business’ Web venture.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
There is a good reason for consulting with a professional Web writer or copyeditor before you go ahead and do something of which you know nothing in terms of expertise.
For instance, the fact that a lot of people are now able to set up a WordPress site does not mean we are suddenly all Designers or Publishers. It does mean, however, that as technologies have progressed, accessible services have become inexpensive and are now widely available. Online technologies are adopted to such an extent that the open-source community is now able to produce a five-minute-installer for an out-of-the-box system that is robust enough to be competently used by the masses.
Good copywriting is a craft.
A literate graduate of secondary or higher education programmes does not, necessarily, a professional writer make.
Writing great copy relies on a specific skill set. Writing quality content for the Web depends on another, very specific, skill set. The craft of writing captivating and logically flowing articles and stories that are error-free requires skills which must be honed through years of experience in order to reliably produce high quality Web content.
Writing quality Web content is a craft. The art of good copy is not a matter of indulging Web teams to spend ever growing budgets. The Web writer is a service professional and a creative solution finder who can tackle the challenges of creating quality Web copy in a reliable manner.
Publisher, and founder of Penguin Books, Sir Allen Lane, addressed similar issues with the words:
…good design is no more expensive than bad.
—Sir Allen Lane
A professional copywriter is able to support your business endeavours by
- producing fresh, bespoke & distinguished copy,
- crafting content according to your business objectives,
- creating effective copy for the specific purpose,
- catering to your timeline,
- drafting copy in a consistent manner,
- writing according to tone, voice & style guidelines, and
- finding the right words for the task at hand.
Your second cousin’s neighbour’s video-game-prodigy daughter or the student intern off the street may have the expertise it takes to turn in good copy in a consistent and professional manner. But chances are they don’t. In short, creating good copy is a job for a professional.
So, do yourself a favour and find a good Web writer. It makes everybody happy:
- Happy organisations because quality copy makes them look good and trustworthy. Which in turn supports organisational and business goals.
- Happy users because they come to your site and find what they are looking for. Fast.
- Happy designers because they get sample copy to help them think about a site’s character.
- Happy developers because they get sample copy to build a site around.
- Happy information architects because they have someone to discuss navigational elements and the taxonomy with.
- Happy user experience designers because they have someone to help them design effective user instructions and microcopy.
- Happy content strategists because they have content creation partly covered.
- Happy marketers because their message is heard and more users want to engage with you.
- Happy copywriters because they beautified another Web site.
Good copy is a service.
Apart from maintaining your credibility, a professional Web writer produces quality content with the user's needs in mind. It is a challenge that a copywriter cannot resist!
A professional Web writer knows how to frame content, how to instruct the visitor with the right bits of information at the time, how to help the user get things done and how to support those users accomplish tasks.
If an e-commerce site throws unusable error messages at me during the check-out process, I can try to muddle through until I reach the submit button. Or, I may just leave the site that makes me feel stupid. Nobody forces me to give them my hard earned money.
If I am a S.T.U.P.I.D. user, and I probably am, and if I failed to read your entire three page registration form, thus filling it out incorrectly,… well… if you don’t give me comprehensible feedback messages I can act upon… I have no opportunity to give you my money, however much I might like to.
If you'd asked me personally: I would not put up with that. Knowing I can get the same thing off Amazon or eBay, I’ll probably go there; and get it in one click or so.
Understand this: there are customers out there who want to give you money. Your Web site must not come between you and their money.
Users who come to your Web site looking for information or seeking to complete a specific task appreciate suitable content. They want to get stuff done. A professional Web writer can cater to those user needs. They may even find better words for your obscure menus. They can make your microcopy work harder so the user does not have to. They can evoke a whole brand personality by crafting a Thank you message.
Good copy makes business sense.
In closing, there's money in good copy. Isn't that why we produce it? So, if you want to glean more advertising revenue from increased traffic to your site, avail yourself of the services of a professional and profit from their expertise.
Help the users to trust you. Users want to trust you. It is when they see bad copy or poorly laid out Web sites that they start to question your authority, expertise and credibility. And then they won’t give you their precious payment details and everybody is bound to end up heartbroken and unhappy.
In this article, I use the terms Web content & copy, as well as copywriter & Web writer somewhat synonymously.