Copywriting for team-of-one product designers
When I worked for startups, I wished I had these tips. Instead, I was trying to produce verbose sentences that were grammatically correct.
I understand the unique challenges when working as a solo, team-of-one designer and wearing multiple hats — including content design.
Despite no longer working for startups and having dedicated content designers on my team, I still visit these tips from time to time.
OK: “The coloration of the clickable button is blue.”
Better: “The button is blue.”
Why: A good sentence uses simple language that is easy to understand.
OK: “Your account has been deleted by our system.”
Better: “We deleted your account.”
Why: Active voice is direct and easy to understand, which improves clarity.
OK: “The JSON file was corrupted.”
Better: “There was a problem with the file.”
Why: Not all users will understand technical terms. It’s best to keep the language clear and simple.
OK: “In order to proceed with the process, you are required to press the button marked as ‘Continue’.”
Better: “Press ‘Continue’ to proceed.”
Why: Shorter, to-the-point sentences reduce cognitive load and increase understanding.
OK: “Users should update their profiles.”
Better: “Update your profile.”
Why: Speaking directly to the user creates a more engaging and personal experience.
OK: “Hey there! Wanna see your account details?” (for a professional business application)
Better: “View your account details.”
Why: The writing should match the brand’s tone to provide a consistent user experience.
Not great: “Error 404.”
Better: “We can’t find the page you’re looking for.”
Why: Clear error messages help users understand what went wrong and what they can do next. Add an example, “Did you mean xyz page”?
OK: “Don’t forget to save your work.”
Better: “Remember to save your work.”
Why: Positive language is more engaging and user-friendly.
OK: “Do not uncheck this box if you don’t want to avoid unsubscribing.”
Better: “Check this box to keep your subscription.”
Why: Double negatives can confuse users, making it harder to understand the action.
Not great: “Savechanges” or “SAVE ALL CHANGES” or “Save Changes.”
Better: “Save changes”
Why: Proper spacing and capitalization improve readability and comprehension.
OK: “Go ahead.”
Better: “Click ‘Next’ to continue.”
Why: Specific instructions help guide the user’s actions.
OK: “Your package will arrive in two days.” and “You have thirty minutes to activate your account.”
Better: “Your package will arrive in 2 days.” and “You have 30 minutes to activate your account.”
Why: Numerals stand out better and are easier to scan than spelled-out numbers. Also, think about all the non-native speakers who might use the product.
OK: “Agreement acceptance”
Better: “Accept agreement”
Why: Action words at the beginning of button labels make it clear what will happen when the user clicks.
OK: “Click here.”
Why: Descriptive link text improves accessibility and helps set appropriate expectations about what users will find when they click.
Not great: “Please submit your query.” (for a children’s app)
Better: “Ask us anything!”
Why: Knowing your audience helps you write in a way that best communicates with them.
OK: Using “Cart”, “Basket”, and “Bag” interchangeably on an e-commerce site.
Better: Consistently using “Cart” throughout the site.
Why: Consistent terminology enhances clarity and prevents confusion.
OK: “Our CDN improves site performance.”
Better: “Our Content Delivery Network (CDN) improves site performance.”
Why: Not all users will be familiar with specific acronyms or abbreviations, so it’s best to explain them.
OK: “You’ve earned 1500 points.”
Better: “You earned 1500 points — enough for a $15 voucher.”
Why: Providing context helps users understand the relevance or value of the information.
OK: “We’ll get back to you soon.”
Better: “We’ll respond within 24 hours.”
Why: Providing specific time frames sets realistic expectations for the user.
OK: “The money has been sent.”
Better: “Money sent.”
Why: Using simple verb tense (e.g. past simple) makes sentences easier to comprehend.
OK: “Continue with the task.”
Better: After testing, you may find that “Keep going” performs better.
Why: Testing different phrases helps identify which best drives user engagement.
These are my 20+1 tips for designers who also write copy because no one else on the team would.