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Interface Copywriting: Encouraging User Behaviors With Content

From email opt-in forms to clickbait headlines and shopping cart checkouts, everything relies on copywriting. And the specific style of copy can have a dramatic effect on user engagement.

When you’re designing or launching a website you always want to check your work and see what converts best. Each audience is different and their needs differ depending if the site is a small business, a band website or an ecommerce shop.

Let’s dive into the wacky world of copywriting and see how to use writing on the web to increase user engagement.

Understand Your Goals First

Are you hoping to get more people to sign up to your service? Or do you want new leads for your newsletter? Maybe you’re hoping to increase social shares for your blog posts?

These are all viable goals and they all have measurable stats to gauge success.

Each goal requires a different copywriting strategy so it’s important to know what you want users to do. This way you can design around that goal and ideally encourage the behavior you need.

Interface copy should be clear and targeted. Whether you want visitors to sign up or check out, good copywriting encourages some type of action. Click this button, enter an email address, finish paying, etc.

trello homepage copy

The Trello homepage is a great example with a bold headline at the very top. The copy conveys that users get more done using Trello.

Whether this is true or not, I certainly can’t say.

But Trello’s objective is to increase users and this headline definitely gets the user curious to learn more. Their button text also reads “sign up for free” which is another incentive to join.

People are more willing to try something if it’s actually 100% free. So trials/demos are a good way to increase conversions.

But remember that most users don’t care about your goals. They only care about what’s in it for them. Your copywriting should reflect that.

Cater to the user’s benefits first and give them a reason to click/convert.

conference badge website

The button text “create your badges” speaks directly to the user. It tells them what they get out of clicking the button and hopefully encourages them to take action.

What you’re looking to do is find a happy medium between your goals and the user’s needs. But this all starts with defining your goals first, then designing around the user behaviors.

Help Users Take Action

Try to write in a way that encourages behaviors and draws attention fast. Speak directly to the user. Write button text like “start your trial” or “yes I want to join!”

You can also be a bit more casual depending on your userbase. Know your audience and how they’ll respond.

One good example is the homepage of Leanpub which targets two different groups of people: book publishers/writers and potential readers/buyers.

leanpub homepage copywriting

You see two CTAs for both groups each targeting a different action. They’re clear, easily visible, and they tell users what the end result will be(create a book/add item to cart).

This isn’t crazy enticing copy. But it does work well for clarifying intent with the user.

To garner more conversions you might follow a 2-step question/answer formula instead.

This is where your headline asks an obvious question about the user’s wants, and the CTA buttons answer that question.

social triggers blog modal

The Social Triggers blog is a terrific example with a modal window and two clear CTAs. The goal is to encourage the user to sign up by answering an obvious question.

Based on the Social Triggers audience it’s fair to assume most visitors want 5k more subscribers. This question has a blatantly obvious answer, and clicking that CTA leads to entering an email address to get the book.

Copywriting encourages the conversion but it’s always the user who takes action.

There’s a great case study by VWO explaining the importance of button copy. Changing a button style to green and changing the text to say “start now” increased conversions by 32%.

control ab test

Simple unconnected text like “click here” is probably the worst way to design a CTA.

If you can get the user invested in what you’re offering they’ll be curious to learn more. Write your headlines and CTAs so that they match and get users curious enough to take action.

Write For Emotions

Logic seems to take a backseat to emotions with online marketing. The article above is from Conversioner and it has plenty of good advice on this. Here’s a quick snippet:

Emotional persuasion relies on the audience’s subconscious mind, which runs on auto-pilot when it comes to the receipt, processing, and evaluation of information.

As such, the decisions that are made at the subconscious level are based on the person’s gut feeling, instincts, or emotions.

If possible you should work to develop emotional connections to the aspirations of your visitors. What do they really want? How can you offer something valuable to help them get this?

Here are a few techniques that copywriters use to add emotions into content:

  • Exclusivity(invite-only, you’re a lucky winner)
  • Scarcity(signup free today only, sale ends soon)
  • Reduced risk(guaranteed results, secure, trusted testimonials)
  • Power words(free, secrets, win, easy)

Unfortunately most of these emotions appear in copywriting that’s pushy and aggressive.

Confirm shaming is a popular technique where modal windows use negative copywriting on the close/cancel button to stop users from clicking. There’s even a Tumblr blog based around this technique.

confirm shaming blog

But if so many websites are doing this, and continually running this copy, you better believe it’s working.

If you don’t like the fear/anxiety/scarcity angle you can always go towards the other end of the spectrum. Visitors are also likely to convert when they feel warmth, security, or that fuzzy “d’aww” feeling you get with cute pet videos.

If your visitors have a pain point then write towards that. A bad designer has good reason to sign up for a course promising to help them master design in 30 days.

Keep your attention focused on your visitor’s needs and tap into how they might feel. Use that feeling as a springboard to come up with new angles.

Always Split Test

The only way to know which copy works best is to split test. This is where you run two variations of copy against each other to see which performs best.

Through this process you’ll learn which areas on the page have the biggest impact in conversion rates.

For example, there’s a split test from Kissmetrics that proves button copy makes a huge difference. One website saw a 38% increase in conversions just from changing button text to read “get information”.

case study ab tests

Another example from VWO found that adding a pricing badge near the signup form caused a 100% increase in leads. They also slightly adjusted button copy which may have played a role. But either way it’s a pretty clear that small changes in copy go a long way.

This is why split testing is so important. You never know when some minor change will make a huge difference.

button copy split test

Take a look at this intro guide on A/B testing for a place to get started. It’s very thorough and explains everything from multivariate changes to statistical significance.

You can also follow along with the VWO guide which shows you how to run split tests on their system.

The surest way to find working copy is to split test constantly. This does take time but the results can be incredible.

Moving Forward

Interface copywriting is a simple idea. But once you get into the details you’ll realize how much a small change can make on performance.

Write for the user and help them take action. Strong action words and emotions always help too. But as long as your interface is usable and clear then your writing has done its job.

Jake is a freelance writer, designer, and illustrator. He currently writes articles on user experience design for web & mobile. You can see more work on his portfolio site and follow his tweets @jakerocheleau.

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