Microcopy, or transactional content

In our recent Implementing Content Strategy guide, this kind of copy is referred to as transactional content by author Dr Mike Baxter.

It’s essentially the same thing though, as the report states:

“This type of content is what we might call ‘micro-content’, i.e. the content that persuades and enables prospects to complete a transaction, whether this transaction is signing up for an email newsletter, downloading a white paper or making an online purchase.

“This transactional content includes benefit propositions justifying the transaction as well as the form-field labels, error messages and help text.”

Essentially, the microcopy plays a key role in the user experience.

You may have designed a usable site, but microcopy has a part to play in guiding customers through checkout steps, explaining how form fields work, and so on. 

It also has a role to play in guiding customers through parts of the process where problem areas have been identified.

If user tests or analytic have identified areas of friction during checkout, the solution doesn’t necessarily have to be a redesign of pages or forms. Instead, a piece of microcopy can do the job.

In general, sites design forms expecting users to know what to do, but it doesn’t hurt to spell things out clearly for shoppers.

Examples of microcopy in action

These examples show how sites are using microcopy to smooth the customer’s progress through the site, and checkout forms in particular.


The copy is important here, as Schuh uses a predictive postcode tool which some users may be unfamiliar with.

The text inside the box explains how it works, while the copy above explains they can use the manual tool as well.

It may seem obvious to some, but there’s no harm in making forms as clear as possible.


Guest checkout is a great option which removes the barrier that registration can be. However, some customers will still want to create an account as well.

Here, Apple reassures people that they’ll have a chance to create an account later.


Nice use of copy to explain the special delivery instructions. Again, it may seem obvious, but this removes any room for confusion.


Rather than leaving the search box blank, many sites use a phrase like ‘search site’. Here Zappos suggests a few products to search for.

As suggested by ConversionXL, sites can tie up these product suggestions with analytics data showing high performing products.


This reminder that passwords are case sensitive should avoid some common errors when customers attempt to login.

Here, customers are asked for a phone number when they register on Zappos.

It’s quite a common question for US ecommerce sites, though UK retailers often make this optional, and tend to ask for a mobile number.

Users may wonder why the number is asked for, as it isn’t strictly necessary to complete the order – the site will have the address for delivery and a contact email anyway.

They may also have concerns that they’ll receive sales calls. Zappos handles this well.

The ‘why ask?’ link opens this small popup which explains the reason for this form field and offers reassurance that numbers will not be shared with third parties.

The two pieces of copy relating to the billing address here suggest to me that Zappos has identified the billing address as a problem area.

Presumably a number of transactions as people are entering the wrong billing address, and this piece of copy should help.

It also shows the value of microcopy as a means to solve conversion problems on ecommerce sites.

Norman Records

I like the copy explaining the availability of stock. It’s honest and a little bit casual. It also has the effect of making the use of urgency more effective in the case of the triple vinyl version.

House of Fraser

Some useful text on the payment page explaining what is required for each step.

I especially like the message about the PayPal payment process, stating that customers will the House of Fraser checkout to pay before being returned to the site to confirm orders.


tests often show how people can have issues with what seem to be straightforward forms.

Moosejaw anticipates such problems by using the text in each field to explain what’s required.

It also uses an address lookup tool to check the details customers have entered against a database.

I’ve entered a made up address, but it spots it and gives me this very polite and amusing error message.

If I persist with the same address, I get this message:

Have you seen other examples of great microcopy? Have you used this on your site? Let me know below…