Copy UX: Wireframing Your Message Hierarchy

As digital and the Internet of Things continue expanding, so has the art of writing copy and messages with impact.

Much like an art director sketches before touching their Creative Suite tools, for the past three years, the biggest change in my writing has actually been wireframing my copy messages.

Copy Wire

Here’s why:

1. Everything should be responsive

Screen size fluctuation has become the norm in our generation. From TVs, pagers, sidekicks, smartphones, watches, tablets… (You get it.) Everything keeps getting smaller, then bigger, then smaller again. (And now, according to Method, we need to start thinking beyond the screen.)

What’s exciting about these times is the new design approaches that let us enjoy a product experience without feeling like we’re wondering through “Into the Woods” before we knew it was a two-hour musical. (The feeling we’re looking for is horror. Horror I say!)

Responsive design (and my current personal favorite, Material Design) has changed the way people consume information, and it has been a true challenge for those of us trying to figure out how people will consume information moving forward.

Many brands are finally tackling this new responsive era, but it is just truly becoming the norm across all types of businesses.

This alone made me think of messaging differently: Are people scrolling? Are they moving? Is it as simply human as it can be?

Exploring so many potential answers has been a true adventure, but one thing is clear: if it can’t be digested quickly, anywhere they are, it ain’t gonna work.

2. Message hierarchy matters

Now blessed by Lee Clow himself, @leeclowsbeard has one of the most influential tweets in my career: “An ad should be an appetizer, not a buffet.”

This idea is not only true, but is the one rule most clients simply don’t understand. Unfortunately, most businesses want three to ten messages in one ad. (That’s just a sad fact of ad life.)

My response is always a question: “What do you really want your audience to remember?”

Once I land on that idea, I tend to guide my clients into the top three messages they want to say, and stop writing. Anything else can be said in a different ad, email, tweet or any combination there of.

But why does it matter in the first place?

According to MIT, there are four simple Design Principles for Effective Communication:

A. Organize the presentation about a hierarchy of messages.
B. Use a constantly evolving attribute of the material to sequence it along a path.
C. Order the concepts so that earlier concepts facilitate the understanding of later concepts.
D. Provide a memorable introduction and conclusion.

There are many schools of thought on what makes a message work. I happen to identify with these because of the tech-centric, conversation-driven world we’re building.

What doesn’t change is the human experience. And, how we communicate — successfully — with each other through well-told stories.

3. Evolution is a given (and necessary)

Even though a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, someone needs to put those words in the proper order, so your audience cares, engages and shares your brand’s story.

Our society is definitely becoming more visual (think of Instagram, YouTube, KIK, Snapchat, etc.). However, the art of storytelling still drives the human experience, which is why you need someone who understands how we all behave, evolve and continue sharing stories with each other.

No matter how many screens, gadgets and gizmos we continue inventing, someone needs to continue passing our stories and findings with each other.

That’s where you’ll find a good copywriter sitting with a pen or pencil most likely over a blank piece of paper ready to fill it with grace and purpose.