CopyCon rambles #3: Web project woes

January 6, 2016

OK, these really are my final thoughts from last year’s Copywriting Conference

UX marks the spot

One of the most practical talks I heard all day was by Tim Fidgeon, Digital Marketing Trainer and Consultant. It was all about user experience – or UX, as those in the business like to call it – and what it means for great digital copywriting. It’s a big issue now that more of us work online. We writers need to think: how do we write in a way that takes readers on a simple and successful digital journey?

Anyway, the talk was full of fantastic insights, all based on proper research and data. For instance, did you know that it’s harder to read text that is centred, rather than aligned left? (I obviously only learned this after I’d finished my own homepage. Ahem.) And as well as words, Tim also taught us lots about the way design affects UX.

Creativity… at the expensive of usability

So, Tim wasn’t exactly shy about sharing his frustrations when it comes to web design. He worries that designers are too often in thrall to that paragon of brand identity: Apple. And so they do lots of Apple-y design things, like grey text on white background – and while these things look lovely, they actually make it harder for people to take in information.

I think it raises some interesting questions about how writers and designers balance their creativity with the practicalities of working for web. And it’s something I’ve come up against in my own projects…

A cautionary tale: web project woe

I recently helped create a website from scratch. I worked with a team of designers, who came up with some design layouts – which were absolutely fantastic. I wrote copy to fit the layouts. And then our web person started to build everything, according to the designs.

And that’s where the problem started to appear. Some elements of the designs looked amazing on paper, but really didn’t work well online – for instance, big image panels with text overlaid, that worked brilliantly on desktop and iPad but not so well on mobile. A blog layout that looked super clean and tidy, but that actually made it quite tricky to scroll through the content.

My advice: get your heads together

In my experience, people running these projects often divide the work up into chunks: they want the design bit first, then the copywriting, and then the web build. One after the other. But it’s crucial to get all the different parties together, so that they can each spot potential problems that others might not notice.

Build time into the process for people to collaborate: let designers and writers talk about site architecture and messaging together, so that the right messages can sit in the right space. And let them collaborate with the web builders, so that they don’t spend ages creating something beautiful that just isn’t practical.

And, best of all: get some clever UX people involved, right at the start. And tell Tim I sent you.

 

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