EX17 - Microcopy

Adding just enough guard rails

Developing the ability to anticipate where the user may struggle and delivering guidance before they tumble into disaster is a product design superpower that never goes out of style.

Updated November 05, 2020

I’m certain that you’ve constructed a marvelous wireframe. You’ve likely thought about what seems like every possible situation for what feels like days. Now you’re just ready to bolt into prototyping so you can get this project in front of people.

A word of warning. You aren’t ready for them, and they will never be ready for you. It sounds like a bold statement for sure, but every product fails in some way when it comes into contact with a new user. This says less about the quality of your work and more about the general state of users.

Much like the parents of toddlers who have just begun to walk, we have to escape our reality and think about theirs. That means our new goal is to find all the ways that a user may struggle while using your product and insert Microcopy that will assist them in their moment of need.

Common inclusions are:

  • Missing password assistance
  • Cart or delivery error messages
  • Unavailable or missing item
  • Store hours
  • Price changes
  • Missing form fields
  • Unsupported file upload
  • Connectivity errors

While the complete list is expansive, accounting for at least the following options should assist users with the vast majority of problems they might encounter. In the end, if a user is unhappy using a service — which includes the overall experience with a website or product — they will be unlikely to return.

Upgrading your microcopy to help users should be among the easiest wins you achieve.

Resources for review

Please use the following items to guide your exercise attempt:

Article/Video Source/Author
Signposts for the Experience Ahead New Pragmatic
A microcopy checklist Ryan Cordell
Good Microcopy Richard Sison


Length: One-to-two hours to complete.

In this exercise, you’re creating the microcopy that will help a user navigate through your project. The goal is providing helpful direction while only redirecting the user when necessary.

Your work should layer on top of your existing wireframes, so be sure to make a copy of that work before you layer on the microcopy for this exercise.


Update your Program Journal with a link to your updated Wireframes and any other items you produced in this exercise. Post your Journal in the #Feedback-Loop channel for review.

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