Writing a copy for an app: watch your language

I wouldn’t think that writing a text for an app is challenging until the moment I was given a task to write one.

The good thing about working in a young company that is making steps away from being a startup — is that team members have the power to influence the way things are done. The product and processes are just shaping and with diverse and outstanding individuals onboard, there’s a chance we’ll create a disruptive and special product.

As a copywriter in VeeRoute, I get to participate in building a communication system. The company is just 2 years old and having a creative department just gathered, within it, we are creating the verbal and visual language from the scratch.

So, I was given a task to work out the communication style for a courier app that VeeRoute is currently developing. And thus to lay the foundation for our system of communication and interaction with users. There is a quite limited amount of relevant information found online on this topic, so I decided to contribute a bit and make a useful piece out of my work task.

VeeRoute design department cherishes these two principles in whatever we create:

  1. Less is more: we love simple, easy and neat.
  2. Empathy: user’s feelings count, communication should be human and fun (even when the product is quite serious).

We spent some time figuring out what our brand is, what is acceptable for us when communicating, what do we represent. Asana (task manager for teams) has a great read about redefining own brand values. It helped me a lot in understanding the process: Micah Daigle told what it took them to turn from boring software into empowering and quirky everyday helper.

Our brand (at this stage) is made of: bold, innovative approach + young, bright minds + cutting-edge technologies. This combo is designed to disrupt the logistics processes of today. And our voice should sound smart, techy yet cool and sharp.

Google developed Material Design: “a visual language that synthesizes the classic principles of good design”— there I found very informative and reasonable comments on writing style. Their rule of thumb on app copywriting is:

Text should be understandable by anyone, anywhere, regardless of their culture or language.

I’ve made a summary of notable and widely applicable points that will certainly help when writing a copy for an app.

Language

  • Me or you? UI mostly uses these two forms. Decide on what’s more centric — an app and what it does for the user or the fact of user ownership of content and actions within the app. Depending on that, in courier app we can use “My tasks” in the menu, but “Your route is completed” notification. Or drop the pronouns at all and save some space. (It’s also better to avoid “we” unless it’s absolutely necessary because it’s not about us — it’s about the user).
  • Be concise. Use short phrases. Loose unnecessary details.
  • Write in p r e s e n t. When you need to use past/future tense — use simple forms.
  • Remember that your app is for all levels of readers. Use understandable words.
  • Be consistent in the terms that you use: if you’ve introduced the word picture, don’t switch to photo or pic further on. If you remove — don’t delete. The same applies to time and date formats.
  • Never say never. Neither in a real life—nor in your app: avoid any kind of extremums and generalizations.
  • Be humble, friendly and respectful, remember to focus on the user. However, know and show your voice — this way you differentiate from competitors and create an emotional bond with the user.

Go check Material Design for many more useful and practical details: how to name buttons, when to use colons and what kind of dash is suitable in the app.

So, watch your language, add your brand voice and you’ll write a decent app copy. And I will try too.