Words, words, words…

One thing that remains a major difference between traditional media executions and the digital space is the lack of attention paid to the ‘Words’.

In ad land the words are pretty much playing the co-lead with the actual creative execution. In brand land it’s pretty much the same again. As a result a great deal of time and craft are applied to these words. Art Directors work along side their wordsmith counterparts – Copywriters. Yet in digital land words are pretty much the last thing to be considered, if they are actually considered at all. It is far to common an occurrence that a ‘copy deck’ is compiled by an account director/producer and or the client in the dying moments of a project.

Yet the words are critical on so many levels. For one the way the actual content of the site is written sets a tone for the brand just as it does for an ad or any other piece of marketing. But more importantly for a user centric space like digital land the words play an essential role in the user interface. It’s fine to put the functionality in the best place with a structured layout and clever hierarchy but if the words on the signposts don’t call out to the user then the experience breaks. Still most digital projects are tackled with a negligent disregard of the words.

It generally starts when costing a job as there is unlikely to be any budget allocation for ‘copywriting’ – it just isn’t considered. With this it is pretty uncommon for digital agencies to even have copywriters in their team (with the exception of the big global networks).

To some extent it seems endemic of a general trend, in communication in a wider sense that users themselves are probably not as critical of these details as they should be. The younger generations have become more adaptable than their forefathers and the odd bad bit of copy here or there on a website will not prove to be the biggest downfall for them.

When pondering this issue I am always reminded of one of my favourite applications of good copy online – the user welcome on Flickr, each visit you are welcomed in a different language. This simple copy device sets a warm welcome to all with every visit real displays the power of well thought out applied copy.

Mingalaba Friends!
Now you know how to greet people in Burmese!

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One Comment

    The wonderful resource that is A List Apart, has also picked up on this theme in this recent post. They delve past the surface and discuss the concepts around copy that works, or is trying to achieve and specific site goal. It’s a great post and well worth a read for anyone who touches website copy.

    posted by arcd | November 6, 2008 at 3:51 pm | permalink

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