Long copy Vs. Usability? What About Relevance and Design?

With time being such a valuable commodity these days, what’s the best way of providing people with the information they need on your website?

Do they really want to wade through thousands of words of carefully composed, sales driven copy?

Or would they prefer bulleted lists and tidbits of info that communicate your product’s benefits as quickly as possible?

Well, this was the debate on Bob Bly’s blog recently, when he challenged web usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s view that people don’t read much on the web, and typically only read about 20% of your website’s text.

Obviously, there are a lot of facets to this argument, and what works in selling to one website visitor won’t necessarily be as effective for another.

But as a copywriter, I have to stand on Bly’s side of the fence and join the crowd chanting in support of the power of words.

Emotionally driven long copy can take readers on a carefully woven psychological path until they’re jumping up and down in their seats and reaching for their credit cards.

Copy can never be too long as long as it’s relevant, compelling and interesting.

After all, would you prefer your shop’s salespeople to talk to your customers as briefly as possible or for as long as the customer is interested in what they have to say?

Copywriting should be wielded with a website’s design

Even on brochure style websites, high quality copywriting serves many purposes: it reflects your branding, builds trust in your expertise and enhances the perceived quality of your products.

However, copy shouldn’t be expected to do everything on its own. How it’s presented and how it works with the rest of the website’s images, navigation and layout is also vitally important in generating sales.

Unfortunately, a website’s copy is often the last element to get ticked off the list during an overhaul.

And this is when copy often fails to be as effective as it could be, when it’s hammered into blocks of white space like a mismatched jigsaw.

So the debate shouldn’t merely be about long copy Vs. usability.

But about how websites are created in the first place, and that more thought needs to be put into how all the elements work together.

4 thoughts on “Long copy Vs. Usability? What About Relevance and Design?

  1. I would have to agree with Jakob on visitors only reading 20% at best, but that is not for everything.

    My landing page for my usability analysis would be considered a long read, but if you look at how interested parties read it, they read the whole thing. So I either get quick bounces on it, or I get visitors that spend 7 to 10 minutes reading with the statistical conversion out of them.

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