The Design Division

When The Design Says One Thing, The Copy Quite Another

Having a great looking website is only half the battle. You’ve got to ensure that the content matches the design. If you’ve got a website that looks like it was designed in 2014, but written in 1814, then you’re going to struggle to convince customers to stick around. Find out more by reading our blog.

You say potato, I say patarto. You dress for an informal lunch, I show up in white tie and tails. You have a tennis racket in your hand, I’m toting a sand wedge.

Oh dear! Maybe some things just aren’t meant to be. Perhaps the big guy in the sky is trying to tell us something.

Actually, when this happens to you and your intended, long term things don’t look all that great. Maybe you should book a session at Relate. But here I’m more concerned about when it happens to two parties that should be joined at the hip. Namely, the design and copy on a web site. Of course, this should not just apply online, it should dictate the shape of every piece of marketing communication, but we’ll focus on web design for now.

I may be naïve, but I firmly believe that design and copy should be a marriage made in heaven. They should be salt and pepper, fish and chips, fillet steak and mustard. They should be soulmates, partners in crime.

All too often, unfortunately, it just ain’t so. In fact, one could be cynical and maintain that it’s not even normally so. It’s one of my pet bugbears that so many websites you visit may look like the dog’s, but read like the Bradford Corporation Bus Timetable.

They look like they’ve been designed in 2014, but when you start reading the words – and not many will – you think you’ve been teleported into some sort of 1950’s time warp. Stiff, wooden phrases and Dickensian grammar sit uneasily alongside funky fonts, cool colours and iconic imagery.

What the Hell’s going on? Here are some of the usual suspects – feel free to add your own as appropriate:

While the design is the result of weeks of tender loving care, the copy was thrown together in somebody’s lunch time – and not a very long lunch either.

  • As an alternative, the copy has been written by the client. And he or she probably did it in his lunch hour. Or even if they toiled over it for months, it makes no difference. They’re simply no copywriter, never were, never will be, and have bitten of more than they can chew. Like a leopard trying to eat a rhinoceros more than they can chew.
  • Another familiar face on this rogues’ gallery is the copy being ripped off from a printed brochure. It’s like picking a fast bowler to play centre forward for your football team. Different game, different rules, different skills. The web is information-based, and recoils from too much overt salesmanship that may be fine in print. Visitors are also more inclined to skim read, and copy needs to be prepared accordingly. It’s also more informal, funky, even punky.
  • Too many cooks make the broth taste like dishwater. Too many people have had their twopenneth, and it shows. Approval processes are best kept to a favoured few who are well onboard with the site’s objectives.

As I said, you can more than likely chip in with a few insights of your own here. Whatever the case, anything that prevents design and copy from singing from the same proverbial hymn sheet is heartbreaking. Let’s leave the happy couple to consummate their relationship in peace.

Thought-provoking? For more insights into design and marketing issues, call 0845 230 4810.