The Yin and Yang of a Perfect Online Presence – Good Copy Needs Good Design

Let me start this off by blowing your mind


According to research conducted by Harald Weinreich, Hartmut Obendorf, Eelco Herder, and Matthias Mayer in their paper Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use, which was analyzed by Jakob Nielsen, under 30% of people who visit your website will actually be able to read the site’s entire content.


But wait, that wasn’t the mind blow… this is:


He also calculated that most visitors only read around 20% of the content on a webpage!

Well, what the heck are people doing on my website if they’re not using all their time reading what’s actually on the page?

Apparently, visitors spend a lot of time simply “learning” how to navigate your website in addition to gazing at any images that catch their eye… and maybe just maybe, they’re simply staring blankly at the screen while their minds wander off (“hmm, shouldn’t have eaten that spicy burrito for lunch” or “hope nobody saw the coffee stain on my pants at work”).


Good design + Good UX = Good copy?


That makes me think, copy on a website is heavily dependent on the surrounding design of a website.

No matter how amazing your copy is, even if you’re Dan Kennedy or John Carlton, if the website design isn’t complementing the copy then you may as well say goodbye to the message you’re trying to get across.

Too many unnecessary images, bad font and poor use of white space will distract and confuse your visitor – your message will be lost in a storm of nothingness.

It gets even worse if the design is simply crappy… they just leave.

This research actually puts something into perspective: good copy needs good design.

But what really is “good” and “bad” design from a copywriter’s point of view?


There are two ways of looking at this


On the one hand, there are websites out there that just look plain awful – maybe it looks like something that crawled out of 1998, or everything looks weirdly placed with a colour palette that would make your eyes vomit (if they could that is).

On the other hand, websites that have an aesthetically pleasing look (AKA great eye candy) may be poorly designed for getting the message across with the site’s copy.


Achieve perfect harmony and deal with “imbalance”


Here are my personal tips on how to deal with “imbalance”:

Start by thinking about your brand and business. Are you primarily “showing” or “telling”?

If your answer is “telling”, then your site’s  focus is to communicate your message mainly with copy but using fewer visuals.

If your answer is “showing”, then your site’s goal is to visually display your message effectively while using copy as a crutch.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that visual websites don’t need great copy, I’m just emphasizing the “showing” and “telling” to give you a better idea of how to better prioritize your design for copy and vice versa.

The point is to have a balanced website with good design backing up good copy. And remember good design doesn’t mean it looks pretty/creative/award-winning… it means it complements the message of the website by making the visitor want to eat up all that lovely copy so you can achieve your ultimate goal!


What do you think folks?


This is a topic that can be approached from many different angles. This is just one of them.

What is your idea of “good design”?


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