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Basic Copywriting for Web Designers (and Why It Matters!)

Basic Copywriting for Web Designers (and Why It Matters!)

Are your design mockups filled with “Lorem ipsum lorem ipsum”? I don’t blame you if they are. It’s an easy way to fill space. I mean, you’re a designer, not a copywriter, right?

Well, kind of. The problem is that it’s not really possible to entirely separate design from copywriting. So, if you want to design effectively, you need to know a bit about copywriting. And if you dive deeper into copywriting, you can even start offering copywriting as an additional service to clients.

You won’t become an expert copywriter from reading one post, but I hope to at least leave you with a cursory understanding of some basic copywriting concepts you can use to add the written word to your designs.

Why Web Designers Need to Care About Copywriting

We’ve already covered the definition of copywriting in a previous post. But a super quick refresher – in its most basic form, copywriting is the act of creating a set of words that move people to complete a certain action.

That “moving people to complete a certain action” part sounds a lot like what makes a good web design, right? No matter whether you want readers to buy a product, read more blog posts, or anything else; if your web design isn’t moving readers to complete the actions they’re supposed to, it’s not very effective.

Copywriting and Design Affect Each Other

David Ogilvy himself, the father of advertising, could write copy for a website, but if the design has a neon yellow font on a neon green background, those words aren’t going to do squat. Conversely, the best design isn’t going to push people to buy if the only text reads “Product Good. Buy It.”

If design and copywriting aren’t working together, they’ll hold each other back. Period.

Copywriting Tone and Design Tone Need to Match

You certainly know that you can create a tone with your design. Well, it’s the exact same with copywriting. If you’re creating a fun, playful design, the copywriting needs to be fun and playful, too. Otherwise, readers will be left feeling confused. And confused readers do not customers make.

The Basics of Copywriting for Web Designers

Basics of copywriting

Image by 0beron / shutterstock.com

Now that you know why web designers need to care about copywriting, here’s your crash course on website copywriting. Whether you want to start offering copywriting to your design clients, or just want to understand where your copywriter is coming from, here’s what goes into good copy.

Great Copy Starts With Research

Just like you go through designs and mockups before creating your final product, copywriters don’t just start putting pen to paper right away.

Good copy always starts with research. There are two main areas you’ll want to look at:

  • Competition – what does the competition’s website copy look like? What’s their tone and how do they try to differentiate themselves? You need to find the place where your copy can stand out from the competition.
  • Customers – what do customers/users say? Oftentimes they have insights that your client won’t. It’s great to be able to actually talk to customers, but that’s not always feasible. But you can still read forums and customer reviews to understand how people feel.
Copywriting for web designers

Browse customer reviews for tips on what they might want to see in your copy.

Once you complete the research, you can start developing an idea for where to focus your copy.

Create a Draft by Focusing on These Concepts

Once you’ve got the research out of the way, you can start creating a draft for your copy. At a minimum, here’s what you need to consider when writing out web copy:

Benefits matter more than features:

People always want to know what’s in it for them. Don’t focus on features, instead hammer home the real benefits associated with those features. For example, if you’re designing a page for a hair salon, which sounds more beneficial?

“4 haircutting stations”


“Never wait in line thanks to 4 separate haircutting stations”

The second tells potential customers exactly how they benefit. The first just lists a feature with no context.

Benefit oriented copy

Your copy needs to be benefit-oriented.

You need a USP (Unique Selling Proposition):

A USP answers the very important question on most potential customers’ minds, “why should I choose you and not the other company?”

It needs to be short and attention-grabbing. The USP is usually some of the most prominent text on a page. If you’re creating a landing page, you’ll typically want to make the USP the main headline or subheading:

USP example

Wootric gets right to the point with their USP.

Focus on You:

Good copywriting should always focus on the reader by using “you.” For example, both these lines communicate the same idea:

  • “Our product saves users one hour per day.”
  • “You’ll spend one less hour working per day.”

Despite being the same idea, the second sentence makes the benefit much more personal by incorporating “you,” the potential customer, into the copy.

Revise and Proofread

Once you finish your draft copy, it’s time for the next step:

Go to sleep.

Seriously, take a night and sleep on it before you even think about looking at it again. Stepping away from your writing for a bit makes it much easier to look at it with a critical eye.

Once you wake up, it’s time to:

  1. Ruthlessly cut
  2. Proofread

By ruthlessly cut, I mean remove all the filler words and unnecessary phrases from your copy. Website copy needs to be lean and mean. While it’s the same with most writing mediums, website copy has far less room for error.

Once you’ve cut out all the filler, it’s time to proofread. You need to proofread like crazy. Read it out loud. Read it backwards. Run it through Grammarly. Send it to a friend.

Spelling errors are never good, but they’re a lot more forgivable in a blog post than in “permanent” web copy. A study in Great Britain found that 59% of people wouldn’t use a website that had obvious spelling mistakes. So, if you accidently let a few spelling errors slip through, your clients or customers definitely won’t be happy, especially since it can directly affect site performance.

Further Reading for Copywriting

If you want to dig even deeper into copywriting, here are three great resources:

Wrapping Up

Just like a copywriter won’t become an expert web designer overnight, you’re not going to instantly become a world-class copywriter in a day. But at the very least, you can become competent enough to create designs with text that’s at least a little bit more persuasive than “lorum ipsum!”

And because you know the basics, you’ll be better suited to craft your designs to accent and complement your web copy.

Now it’s your turn. Do you generally write copy for web design clients? Or do you hand a site over with filler text?

Article thumbnail image by Bloomicon / shutterstock.com 

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