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Give Your Users a Break and Write Clearly

The copy on your website has got to be clear. That’s the gist of Erin Kissane’s article on A List Apart, Writing Content that Works for a Living. Her article contains two things that I like a lot: a clear and effective list of questions to ask as you write marketing copy for your website, and a scathing dissection of the copy on an ineffective landing page she visited.

So, what questions should your marketing copy answer?

1. Who is the product for?
2. What is the product?
3. What does the product do for its target user?
4. Why is the product better than the available alternatives?

She goes on to explain these questions in further detail and her article would be a good read for that section alone. For question #4, Erin goes on to describe how you should have proof to back up your claims about why your product is better. This is important, of course, but fundamentally, there should be at least something about your product that actually is better than the alternatives. These questions also work when your product is a service.

Your website must answer these questions when describing your products, and it must do so in language that the user must understand. I could not agree with Erin more on this point. Don’t just string together cool-sounding but meaningless words and phrases – write plainly, directly, and concisely.

Erin’s article really works for me in part because these questions follow from fundamental usability questions: Who is your user? What are you user’s tasks? Why should they become your customer? These are all questions that need answers before you get started putting together a website.

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