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The "Writing Compelling Copy" Lesson is part of the full, Web UX Design for High Converting Websites course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul breaks down the strategy for writing compelling copy. Establishing a content hierarchy will help capture attention with headlines while still providing an action item for users who want more detail. A discussion about how to recognize dark patterns is also included in this segment.

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Transcript from the "Writing Compelling Copy" Lesson

>> So let's talk about writing copy for the web, because in my experience, most people suck at this, right? Just because, I'm not gonna say you guys cuz I know a lot of you guys read the designers or developers and so you wouldn't claim to be good copywriters.

[00:00:19] But just because you're a marketer or an academic or someone that writes business reports does not mean you can write good copy for a website, right? It's a very different approach that has to be done in a very, very particular way. And so this is why I'm currently encouraging you guys to have a go at copy.

[00:00:39] Cuz I know a lot of you will be sitting there thinking, I'm no good at writing copy, right? But neither is anybody else. [LAUGH] That's the truth of it, that very few people can write good web copy. And at least you've sat through this course and learnt the basics of how to do it.

[00:00:56] And to be quite frank, because you're immersed in the web all the time, you've got a much more intuitive feel of how people read, right? A lot of people are still under this delusion that people read websites. But you and I know they don't do that, you and I know people scan websites.

[00:01:15] They're looking for the bits of information that they want, and has a fundamental effect on how you go about creating copy. In actual fact, according to some research by the Nielsen Norman Group, people are only reading less than 25% of the copy on any page. So that creates some real challenges if we wanna create compelling copy that encourage people to take action.

[00:01:37] So you need some basic ideas about how to go about doing it. So the first thing is to understand that a website isn't a book, isn't a brochure, isn't something you flip through in any logical way necessarily. So we need to design a kinda content hierarchy that accommodates the somewhat anarchistic way that people access a website.

[00:02:01] But also take into account different learning styles and different ways people consume content. So a very broad wholly level, people tend to consume content in one of two ways. There's people like me, right, who are to be honest, I'm not a details person, right? I'm not somebody that is very good at kind of paying attention to details.

[00:02:28] I'm give me the big picture, right? So I'm the kind of people, I just want the summary, I'll make a gut reaction as to whether this product is for me or not, and I'll make a decision, right? So I'm exceptionally lazy and rely heavily on system one, the automatic path.

[00:02:45] While my co-founder of the agency I used to run, he's a details person. He's the person that reads iTune terms and conditions, that kind of person. And he will want a lot more detail on our website than I will. So that creates an interesting challenge, doesn't it? How do you accommodate people like my co-founder, Chris, at the same time not overwhelming someone like me, right, who just wants a big picture?

[00:03:16] Well, you do it by creating a content hierarchy that guides people through the process a little bit. So, again, I'm not necessarily expecting you to see the details of this particular slide. But essentially it comes to the hierarchy of your website should drill down into progressively more detail.

[00:03:36] So the homepage of your website is the summary, is the thing for people like me, or your landing page or whatever you wanna call it, right? That's the thing that's aimed at people like me that just want the summary, top level information. And then, people can drill down into more details.

[00:03:55] For example, you might have a page for each of your benefits. Remember I talked about the different benefits, you might unpack those in more detail with a whole page on each one, right? Or your list of features might have multiple pages, one for each feature. Also, of course, you might have multiple products, in which case, you'll wanna have landing pages for each of those products.

[00:04:18] So the deeper you go in the site, the more detail and more nuance you're unpacking for those people that want that without it cluttering up the experience for those people who just want the summary at the top level. So that's the first thing you need to bear in mind.

[00:04:33] But the same principle of this kinda hierarchy of content doesn't just apply to the site as a whole. It also applies with the individual pages as well. So the title of the page, right, is gonna be our strap line, or is going to be the must know, it's got to include that must know information that just got to know.

[00:04:59] Then you might have a summary underneath that, a couple of sentences that maybe go into a little bit more detail, include little bit more information. And then maybe you've got some headings that have got a little bit more nuance. And then sub headings, and then section copy, and so it's going from must knows all the way down to nice to know.

[00:05:21] And you gotta all the time keep that hierarchy in your minds as you work. So how do you achieve this in practical terms? So we've got a strap line, which is obviously gonna go at the top. And then we might write a little bit of a summary that unpacks that in a little bit more that sits underneath.

[00:05:39] But then we've got our chunk of benefits or chunk of features and our objections. So what do we do with each of those bullet points that we've created for those different things? Well, for each one, we need to think in terms of content blocks. If you look at pretty much any website, it's made up of content blocks, right?

[00:05:59] And each benefit, each feature, each objection probably is gonna have its own content block, okay? So, for example, if you had benefits, you would have your three benefits side by side in three columns, right, like I've mocked up here. And that would be a chunk on the page.

[00:06:18] Remember I talked about chunking. You can do that with content as well. So you've got your benefits chunked, grouped together. Then underneath that, you'll have your features grouped together, right? And each content block is made up of four elements, right, two of which are optional, right? The required ones is a heading and a short description.

[00:06:42] So if your benefit is to lose the weight after pregnancy, right, your heading will be Lose the Weight after Pregnancy. And then the copy underneath might go, losing weight build up in pregnancy is one of the hardest things to do. And our app is optimized to guide you through the process as quickly and painlessly as possible, done, boom, all right?

[00:07:14] That is your summary version for the likes of me, okay? I might only read the heading. I might just read the Lose Weight after Pregnancy and that might be enough for me, and I'm ready to go, although admittedly I'm not likely to get pregnant, so it's not the most appropriate example for me.

[00:07:32] But I might want a little bit more information, what do you mean by that? Well, then I can read the bit underneath. Now, some people like Chris, my co-founder, he will want even more, well, how are you gonna do that? How does it work? How long will it take that kind of thing?

[00:07:47] Well for me, for Chris, then you can add a link in, right, on your content block, which would go off to a page that would break that down in more information. Now, some people are more visual thinkers, right, so you might wanna add an image in. That's another optional thing that you can do, just to grab people's attention so they can look at it, and it might show a pregnant woman on scales, just to kind of in some way indicate what the content block is about.

[00:08:15] So you're giving these visual clues, but everything is organized into these content blocks. So you need to take your list of benefits, your list of features, and possibly your objections, I'll explain that in a little bit more, and go through and write content blocks for each one of those, right?

[00:08:36] Now in terms of the objections, having your own content blocks dedicated to objections doesn't always work particularly well. What you probably wanna consider doing instead is integrating dealing with those objections as they come up, right? So for example, well, let's take our Lose the Weight after Pregnancy content block.

[00:09:01] In that description, you might wanna say something like, our method is an FDA approved approach to weight loss after pregnancy, right? So what you've done there is you've taken the objection of, is this actually a real thing or is it just a con, and you've put in the FDA approved bit in order to reassure people.

[00:09:24] So you're kind of dealing with your objections as they pop into people's thinking. And that's one of the big mistakes people make with objections, is they include them at the wrong time. So, for example, no doubt your website has a privacy policy that says what you do with people's private data, right?

[00:09:44] But it will be buried in the footer somewhere, okay? Now, people don't come to the website going, I wonder what the privacy policy is, and go to the privacy section. What they do is they go to sign up and go, ooh, now you're asking me for personal data, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that, what's your privacy policy?

[00:10:01] Now if buried down in the footer, people aren't gonna find it. So you've got to put it there at that moment when people think about it. So as you're writing your content blocks, you need to ask yourself what objections are related to this content block. So you can very systematically assemble a page out of a series of content blocks made up of benefits and features.

[00:10:25] Now through that, as I'll show you later when we talk about design, you're scattering things like testimonials and other forms of social proof and calls to action. But fundamentally, your page is just made up of these content blocks that build up together. And even something like testimonials, they are essentially content blocks, you have a picture of the person that you're talking about.

[00:10:52] I recommend if you've got a relatively long testimonial, you pull out one little quote from it that you make the heading. So if people don't read the whole of the testimonial, they still get the summary version, and maybe there's a link off to social media. So that's basically content blocks and how they work.

[00:11:10] And actually I wanted to pick up on one of the issues in particular which was the example that I gave about a fitness app. Where I talked about a woman potentially losing weight after being pregnant, and there was some really great feedback and discussion about whether that is actually a good example.

[00:11:28] Whether actually that is a dark pattern in itself making women feel like they have to lose the weight. And obviously I just gave it as an example off the top of my head and different women have different feelings over that. And I'm not a woman and I've never been pregnant, so I'm not gonna comment on that.

[00:11:45] But what it does raise is a really interesting point about dark patterns, and that is that I can feel that something is okay as the creator. But really whether I see something as being a dark pattern or not is irrelevant, is what my audience thinks that matters. So for example, when I gave that as an example, it didn't occur to me for a moment that someone might perceive that weight loss for a pregnant woman would be a dark pattern.

[00:12:16] Effectively shaming people to lose weight that maybe don't necessarily feel the need. That didn't occur to me as a white middle-class, middle-aged man, but it would and did occur to certain segments of the audience in the chat. So to them, it was a dark pattern even if my intention wasn't to create a dark pattern.

[00:12:39] And so you have to be incredibly careful about this kind of thing, that you've really got to listen to user feedback and adjust your marketing and your tone of voice and your content accordingly. And that's why iterative design and A/B testing and user research and user testing is so important, because it's very easy, as I already did with that example, to misjudge a situation and go down the wrong line.

[00:13:08] So it's a really interesting topic that dark patterns aren't this black and white thing. You can't point to something and say that is a dark pattern and that is not. Because it does depend on perspectives, and the only perspective that really matters is that of the audience you're trying to encourage to act.