Back in 2011, during the Marvel comics crossover event “Avengers vs X-Men”, Marvel did the unthinkable by launching a tie-in series titled AVX: VS. Just like the ridiculously short title, the premise of the limited series was simple. Each issue of the book details several one-on-one fights between a member from the side of the Avengers and one member from the side of the X-Men. Issue one for example features a fight between Magneto and Iron Man and another between Namor and Fantastic Four’s The Thing.
Comics have always been regarded as a lower form of storytelling than novels but the AVX: VS represents something else entirely. This was a book that was unashamed about its main appeal. If you want to see two superpowered people beating on each other, that’s the book you’d want and it got me thinking to how words aren’t that necessary anymore in our culture. About the question of just how much text is actually necessary in the world of web development?
Do we still need words in a world with emojis?
Marvel editor Tom Brevoort refers to the AVX: VS book as “literally a fight book”. In his words, “page one has somebody punching somebody, the last page has somebody shooting somebody else in the face”. The book isn’t actually without words but they’re pretty much unnecessary to your enjoyment of the book since they’re quite literally a representation of the age-old question of who would win in a fight, Cyclops or Captain America?
That’s just one example of how words have been rendered unnecessary even in mediums where they’re supposed to be one of the selling points. In 2015, Chevrolet sent out a press release for their 2016 Chevrolet Cruze rendered entirely in emojis. I mean, obviously, this was a tongue-in-cheek attempt at trying to inject some levity into the typical buzzword-filled standard of press releases and I have to admit, it was pretty funny, but it does showcase an uncomfortable fact that words are no longer that important, which scares me as that means I could very well be out of a job any minute now.
The 21st century dating scene could be summed up by just two, technically three, words of Netflix and chill and the popularity of Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube shows that images and videos reign supreme in the 21st century content landscape. Even I now spent considerable amount of time listening to podcasts instead of reading fiction. Texts haven’t been made completely irrelevant but as our priorities have shifted, businesses have to take this into account when it comes to web design.
The copywriter’s dilemma
Lying at the center of this junction is of course writers and the art of copywriting. The fact that they’re still needed is obvious but the question is to what degree are they exactly needed? I’ve went to great lengths to emphasize just how much words have been considered somewhat irrelevant but the truth is, there are valid arguments as to why you might want to add more words to your website. First and foremost, words help better communicate what your business stands for and in the era of entrepreneurship like ours, having the capability to stand out from hundreds of other competitors would be a boon.
There are other technical reasons why you might want to add more words to your website as well. For the purpose of SEO, using more words would make it easier for search engine crawlers to deduce just what the page is trying to say. If you really want your landing page to rank well for a given keyword, adding well-written words that goes hand-in-hand with the copy is one way of achieving that goal. Words could also help you in being more persuasive and that can be more important if you’re asking for a relatively bigger commitment from the public.
Slow and steady or short and snappy?
The problem is, people don’t really read anymore unless the text is a part of a meme. Somewhat paradoxically however, I’d argue that as the space for words and texts grow even smaller, the talent of an excellent copywriter would be even more valuable. Anyone could reasonably convince others by using a detailed PowerPoint presentation but the ability to do the same in 50 words or less is far less common. When writing copy, you’d want to only include the necessary information and arguments that has to the potential for conversion and leave out everything else.
Essentially, copywriting in the 21st century is not about padding the word; it’s about making every word counts. The placement of the text, the typography is important as well as we tend to skim a page before deciding if they’re actually worth reading. You’re going to have to turn your words into design to make them attractive and proper design could also help in giving a relatively dense piece of text some air so they’d appear less dense than they actually are. Play smart with your design and you could still keep the advantage of a longer text while enjoying the attractive snappyness of a shorter text.