Where most websites go wrong

Printing press

Not the guilty printer

One of my banner printers contacted me to say: “Good news, you don’t have to phone and ask for a quote any more, then wait a couple of days for the email to arrive. We’ve built a new website where you can get instant online quotes.”

Fantastic! I logged on to have a look at the website.

At first glance I was impressed. They had obviously spent thousands on developing this lovely looking site.

Then I realised that, as a user, I had to choose which printing press I wanted them to use, in order to get my quote.

This is sheer madness!

It is the job of the printer to choose which printing press to use. The user only knows they want a banner. They might know what size it is, how many colours, and what the banner says. They might not even know the best size, and would need personal advice from the printer about that.

When I tell my clients this true story, they laugh.

However, lots of websites make the same mistake.


Secrets of successful e-commerce copy


Freemans Head Office in Clapham Road

Before starting my own business in 2001, I spent 18 years working in the home shopping sector, so there’s not much I didn’t learn about selling off the page (or screen).

In print catalogues, every inch of space is selling space. There’s not much room for text as the pictures tell the story. Therefore the copy should only add information that’s not visible in the image.

For my first writing job I had to write purely descriptive copy such as:

“Black skirt with two patch pockets. Material: 50% polyester, 50% cotton. All garments washable. Please see size guides at the back of the catalogue.”

Writing something short is actually harder than writing something long, so every word has to pay its way.

Online, you don’t have the same restrictions with word count. You might also want to include keywords to help with search. And you definitely want to allow customers to leave reviews. (These days, what other people say about your products is more convincing than anything you say yourself.)

Some examples of great e-commerce copywriting…


Copy that could KILL!

Clever, correct and careful copywriting is important. If you don’t get it right, people might DIE!

NHSHow confusing!

“If you have not yet received your invitation letter and you are 47 to 73 years of age and you have not been screened within the last three years or if you are over 73 please contact the office on the number below and arrange your 3 yearly screening.”

How much better!

If you are aged 47-73, you are entitled to free NHS breast-screening every 3 years.

  • Have you been screened within the last 3 years?
  • Have you received an invitation letter?

If your answer to both these questions is ‘no’, or you are aged over 73, please phone 020 3299 1964 to arrange your screening.


Heading: Calling all Bromley women aged 47-73

Body copy: You are entitled to free breast-screening every 3 years. If you haven’t been screened within the past 3 years and haven’t received an invitation recently, please call 020 3299 1964.


How e-commerce copy goes viral

VirusAt the moment, there is a massive trend towards humour and irony in product copy. Sales are being boosted by viral reviews on Amazon and creative descriptions on eBay. These examples may be among the funniest things you’ll ever read. Perhaps you can use them to inspire your own copywriting.

Bic for Girls

You might have seen the recent news that reviews for this girly pen went viral (a total of 530 on the Amazon.co.uk site at the time of writing).

Here’s the official description:

A beautifully smooth ball pen designed specifically for women. The pink barrel has a great floral design that continues onto the metal cone. Super smooth Easy Glide ink & a cushioned grip make writing with this pen ultra comfortable!


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