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Should copywriters make design suggestions?

Should copywriters make design suggestions?

As a copywriter, it’s your job to write the words (obviously) on a website. Usually people come to you as the last bit of the jigsaw when they’ve already got the design and structure of the site worked out, so you know what pages need copy. Simple.

But there are times when you’re asked to get involved a little earlier on, even right at the start of a project. If this does happen, should you include design suggestions on your copy document? Websites are perfect for this as when you write for print, you’re far more limited in what you can do.

For example, if you think particular sections would look great in an accordion or a carrousel do you add this in a comment box for the designer to add in? Do you indicate where boxes should be or think an image or video in a particular spot would look great? And if you’ve got an idea of the type of image or video, do they get suggested too?

There’s no clear answer to this. It depends on you, the project and the designer you’re working with. If the circumstances allow, then do it. The designer might appreciate your input and if not, they can always ignore it!

The best projects are where collaboration happens and you work together. Bouncing ideas off each other helps you arrive at the best look and feel for the site. You’re both experienced, creative people so use each other.

One of the best ways to do this as a writer is to study screenplays. Writers of these more often than not include notes for the director. Scenes include individual characters’ point of view, suggestions of what to focus on, and so on. Directors will then decide how to interpret these. They might feel particular shots will benefit from certain angles or lighting or might simply follow the screenwriter’s directions. A great writer and great director can be a great team making great movies.

And it’s the same when a website’s built. The copywriter is the screenwriter and the designer is the director, and together you can build great websites.


If a football player can be worth £85m, how can you place a value on copywriting?

Even if you’re not interested in football and didn’t stay up watching the live news on the annual transfer window deadline, you’ll probably still have seen the Gareth Bale transfer story. The winger has moved from north London to the Spanish capital to play for Real Madrid. But the biggest talking point of this saga is the fee involved. The Spanish champions will be parting with a world-record £85m for the services of Mr Bale and will be paying him a staggering £300,000 a week.

Many papers and news reports have filled their pages and broadcasts with stories about how obscene these amounts are. How can someone that plays a sport for a living possibly be paid so much?

Of course, football has never lived in the real world like the rest of us, and shelling out huge amounts of cash on players has never been an issue. The clubs with the most money pay the most and players are simply viewed as assets. If a football was a normal business and that business paid so much for a new asset or acquisition, not many people would blink. It’s the fact that we’re talking about a person that makes it difficult to comprehend such vast sums. Placing a real value is difficult.

The same thing applies to copywriting and many of the other creative services. Knowing how to place a value on it is probably the hardest part of the job. Too expensive and people won’t be willing to pay. Too cheap and people will think you’re not much cop. The key lies in education and explaining why you charge what you do and, much like a footballer, what return on investment you can offer.

What Gareth Bale will bring to his new club is an increase in shirt sales, a bigger global audience and may just be the difference between them winning and losing the Champions’ League, thereby earning them more money. They’ll be paying for him in instalments too, so over three-years you could argue the revenue he will bring will pay for his transfer and wages.

That’s how copywriting works. It can help attract more customers, draw attention to your brand and get you found on Google. It will pay for itself. A press release printed in the local paper, for example, could get your business in front of thousands of readers for a relatively small fee. Running an advert in the same paper could cost you ten-times more than the press release but people will be less inclined to read it. And paying a copywriter to write the words on your website will ensure it’s engaging, compelling and search engine optimised. The amount spent will be more than worth it in the long run, and you’ll receive a healthy return on your investment.

As a copywriter, I can’t promise better shirt sales or that you’ll win the biggest prize in domestic football. But I can promise you’ll see real value in your investment and it won’t cost you £85m (unless you want to pay me that much).

Nick Pagan