App is performing a database migration, please be patient

I didn’t have a clue what that meant either.

I mean, with my experience in technology, I could likely guess that this was the result of some kind of update, but should I really have to decipher it? All I wanted was to find out my options for a train to Brighton the next day.

Copywriting isn’t just about sales or marketing, or at least it shouldn’t be. Copywriting should span across every aspect of your business. Not convinced? That’s cool. Just stick me while we unpack the above, will you?

“App is performing…”

Hang about, why is the app talking in the third person? It’s intelligent, I know, but it’s not Skynet levels of intelligent just yet, is it? Should I be worried? What is ‘App’? Maybe I’m taking things a little bit too far, but you’ve not even told me why my train times aren’t showing up and you’re already speaking to me in vague abstractions.

“…a database migration,”

Apparently there’s a database involved. Why does the app have a database? Am I on the database? I have no idea. I want to look at train times, not a database. And why is it being migrated in the first place? Where from? Where to? It’s all a bit hard to decipher, really. But it doesn’t have to be…does it?

“…please be patient.”

There has to be a better way

Right, let’s give this another go. Let’s decipher the technical jargon, take some ownership for what’s going on, be a little more human about the process and give an instruction that actually benefits the user. Let’s try…

“We’re just making sure your train times are correct. We’ll be done in a minute or two, promise.”

If I’m being self-critical, maybe this is too human. Maybe the database migration doesn’t have anything to do with train times (although, if it doesn’t, what is it all about?) Perhaps this is a little too colloquial, but, answer me this…

Does my message feel a little better than the original? No, not “Is it more accurate?” or “Is it generic enough?”, the question is “Does it feel better?”. Technology, and software in particular, should make users feel something. Ideally something good. Especially when they’re this close to the inner workings.

It might seem expense endeavour or a thankless task (and to an extent, both might be true), but ensuring every inch of your website/app/tool is covered by great copy is important. It’s the difference between something that feels cheap and something that feels great. It’s the difference between something you couldn’t care less about and something which feels like it’s grateful for your time, for your eyes, for your unique visit.

You might not have noticed this before, but I’m pretty sure when you lay in bed tonight and open and close most of those apps on your phone’s home screen, you’ll start to. Great copy doesn’t live on the marketing website, or in the on-boarding, or in the help pages. Great copy lives everywhere.

This post was originally published on Medium.