Copy as Conversation

[September 18, 2009]

Once a Web site’s navigation is functionally sound and its architecture delineates an intuitive user path, there’s still another aspect of the user experience we should consider. We need to ensure that the site cuts a clear profile in the user’s imagination.

How well people use a site, and how often they return also has a lot to do with how they feel about the experience. In that sense—though I’m hardly the first person to say so—every Web site has a distinct human personality. That’s because whatever appears in digital space is infused with its creators’ worldview, bias and life-rhythms, whether it’s a casual Snapfish gallery or a tuxedoed corporate showroom.

Critical to creating an appealing and motivating digital personality for your brand is striking the right tone. Good Copy design can give your site real “profile,” something users will remember and want to say in touch with. By “Copy design” I mean the specific way the brand realizes its message on screen. I recently found a modest, but effective example of Copy design at Sony.com.

The process begins as soon as you dial them up: “Believe that anything you can imagine, you can make real,” reads the loading message. Already, Sony is influencing our perception of its entire product line. Combined with the tagline “make.believe” this helps us view Sony products as useful, fun and kind of magical.

Sure, it’s a tactic—but it helps. As I wander through the site, I feel the presence of this playful personality everywhere. A few examples:

• Blu-ray Disc: Stream Machine
• Handycam: Sharp Shooters
• Disc Burners: Burning Desire
• Voice Recorders & Microphones: Talk to Me

As usual, context is a key part of the copy’s collective impact. A wealth of design elements come together to create a quiet, thoughtful voice for these phrases. The more time you spend on this site, the more this invitation to play emerges as the core message, the basic value statement for the brand.

Of particular interest is the absence, for the most part, of strident, blinky calls to action. While the phrase “act now” may actually appear somewhere, it’s certainly not what the brand is leading with. Why? Because doing so would be out of character.

Ultimately, you come away from Sony.com feeling as if you’ve had a conversation with someone memorable. Yes, this is still classic advertising and yes, this is quite literally a monologue, since I can’t input “LOL” on the Disc Burner page.

All the same, the site’s conversational tone and the consistency of its voice still elicits a feeling of connection. Sony may not be able to hear my response, except, perhaps, at the cash register, but I definitely have one—a specific response to a specific individual who just happens to appear in digital space.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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