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Writing copy for landing pages (stripe.com)
416 points by HeinZawHtet on Dec 19, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 84 comments

1) "What's in it for me?" Is __the__ questions everyone asks.

2) If you address that then it's "Can I trust they'll deliver on that promise?"

3) And then finally "Does price being asked meet the value of that to me?"

Call to action.

p.s. "Doubt is the deal breaker." __Anything__ in the UX that makes me wonder "What is that?" __must__ be avoided. This includes any thing from a "weird" layouy, to misspellings, to you name it.

If you make me second guess you're going to increase the odds I default to my default. That is "no thanks. I'm out."

Actually, the question everyone asks (first) is: "what is it?"

Unfortunately, this question seldom gets answered at all. Which is OK, because it says a lot about whatever is being peedled.

Agreed, I feel like often on HN someone will post a link to a new release of a tool, and the page will start off with “Version 2.3.2 of FabricMelt brings advanced DNS configurations, support for multi-factor SSOs and better support for high availability deployments.” At this point, I have no idea what FabricMelt is. Maybe that’s because it’s something I don’t need, but if there’s a prominent link to an “About” page that starts with the sentence “FabricMelt is an open source framework for easily building eCommerce sites and deploying them to Kubernetes”, I now have some reference points. I’ll log that away as “Apparently some people on HN find this useful, maybe I’ll take a closer look the next time someone wants me to build an eCommerce site.” Too often release pages for tools have no such “About’” page link, or if they do it somehow spends a paragraph not saying what the tool is.

TL;DR - When you publish a new release of something, make sure to either include a link to an About page or prominently include the sentence “[TOOL_NAME] is [words I either already know or can easily look up].”

"FabricMelt is a distributed Blockchain protocol with embeddable AI directives for hyper-optimizing DNS lookup K8 containers, specifically designed for AR/Virtual Cannabis tokenized grow operations."

What's so hard to understand?

Only old people (aka over 25) won't get it ...

> Only old people (aka over 25) won't get it ...

Also known as "the people with all the money"

I can't agree more. If you post your new shiny Auto-Resume-Confabulator-9000 on GitHub or anywhere else...your first text below that name better be what it is and what it can do for me.

> "what is it?"

I don't think it's reductivist to say that's just a small reframe of "What's in it for me?"

I'm this sub-tread's "grandfather." It was my list up the tree.

My first reaction was to agree with you. But then I realized how many times I've landed on a page and thought, "Ok. Sounds cool. But WTF is it?" :)

I agree. The two questions go hand in hand. But before you can tell me "what's in it for me" we had both be sure it's perfectly clear (WTF) it is. That is, I think too many brands don't step far enough outside themselves to see it how someone with zero previous exposure to the brand / product might see it.

I think my point was that is you're not covering "what is it?" when you're answering "what's in it for me?" you're not actually covering "what's in it for me?" (if that makes sense).

To successfully demonstrate the value, you need to convey how that value's delivered in my view.

I disgree - a lightbulb what it is it? "An object that instantaneously casts illumination at the flick of a switch" What's in it for me? "Gain the ability to see at night. Stop walking into walls, falling down stairs and treading on Lego"

Its a lifestyle improving paradigm

this is often because we try to anticipate the conclusion without taking the user along the journey of discovery: feature --> advantage --> benefit.

on landing pages, you want that journey to be quick, but in our rush, we'll cut out important pieces, rather than shortening the individual components.

instead of just "add convenience to your life with our auto magic orchestrator 2000!", you need to say "the best home automation hub" --> "because we integrate with everything and our controller is twice as fast" --> "never worry about turning on your heater, lights and coffee maker again!" --> "buy our auto magic orchestrator 2000!"

Oh yes. That's so true. I'll be sure to add that to my list going forward. It wasn't the first time I said those, and it's not going to be the last. Thanks.

Only if you’re building something newfangled that tries to solve a need people don’t realize they have. For everything else, your audience usually knows already.

I'm currently involved in automation processes, which has always been a thing but now 'RPA' is a fashionable term.

Peddlers of the term are also peddlers of ambiguity for what their tools do. Those that I meet that have seemingly been evangalised by these solutions describe 'only low level coding needed'. Assembly? Or not wanting/knowing/needing/trusting to multiskil a team?

There are good RPA tools. The authors of which are straightforward about what they do.

That's just an example of an audience (me) having trouble understanding something smoke and mirrors is often painted around.

Being in Space Z and the market having a general understanding of Z is one thing. Me, a customer, understanding why you over A or B is another. If you're assuming anything then it's likely you're creating doubt. That's a deal breaker.

Agree your point. thanks

"What the F is this thing?"

Is the #1 thing that 99% of web sites get wrong - especially in tech.

"Let's maximize your ROI"

"10x your development"

"We make all of your customers happy customers"

Here's something I found: if I have to visit your Wikipedia entry to find what what you do ... then you'v failed.

BTW I don't always hold it against tech companies as often communication isn't their #1 thing.

Also - having done some of this myself, I do realize that sometimes what appear to be poorly constructed sites are actually well designed for clickbait action or some indirect metric.

Actually, I pretty much always go to a company's wikpedia page to get the straightish description shorn of all the 'solutions'rubbish. Odd that.

Best landing page I ever designed/wrote had this headline: "Fuck it, we like Reddit and we got some shit to sell." By every single metric (views, clicks, time spent on page, conversions), it murdered every other landing page in that campaign. Point is: experiment, have fun, be creative, copy other people's work, add your own flair, do things totally against best practices and logic. Marketing isn't a set-it-and-forget-it kind of activity. It's always moving.

"F* it, we like Reddit and we got some shit to sell."

As a headline is essentially click-bait.

That you had blowout conversions is great, but it's for the same reason Taboola and Outbrain also have ridiculous headlines and images, and not more informative content.

That's a bit reductionist. You're not considering the full context (which, of course, I didn't lay out) of the targeting + the ad + the rest of the landing page. It wasn't click bait. Taboola and Outbrain click bait has shite conversions, that's one way to measure "click bait" (it's not called "conversion bait" for a reason).

What were you selling?

A subscription music discovery service (pre-Spotify).

Ha! Do you still have a link?

Nah, this was a few years ago. I have a screenshot if you want, just hit me up.

Stripe defines modern looking pages. I've been so pleased using their docs and it's a treat to use their services as they always look incredibly polished. Many companies try to copy their look and it ends up looking like a poor clone purchased from a themeshop and gets lost in the startup ocean but Stripe seems to do design in a very precise way. I can't really explain how they do it but major props to their design team for keeping consistent quality.

They're really on another level.

Part of their second point and the 7th paragraph on the page is:

> Patterns may be used to subtly reference a logo or map out a theme. Take a logistics company that transports goods by railway. Perhaps it not only wants to deliver a message, but also simulate a train with a pattern of evenly spaced dots in a horizontal line. To mimic that visual, rewrite landing page copy to link only words of similar length, such as three- or four-letter words.

I find this very weird advice, even more so when it is presented so prominently.

"Everybody Writes" by Ann Handley is a great resource along these lines. Includes general writing advice and useful content-specific tips. For example, make the About Us page on your site not a dry description of the company, but of the company in relation to the visitor, giving more background information on how you help solve their problems.

Hacker News landing page is excellent in that it gets me to the info/product immediately. I don't need to scroll though walls of text about Ycomb and endless stupid photos.[1] But for a first time visitor, there is a lot of "WTF?" because of no what/why being answered, which could be done in one sentence.

Craigslist's home page is excellent again because it gets you immediately into use, but it again fails miserably in the what/why question. [2] Just a single line saying "find stuff locally" is all it needs.

Example of a site that gets you into the product immediately and gives you a one liner that answers the what/why would be vqRN. [3]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/ [2] https://www.craigslist.org [3] http://vqRN.com

Idk if you needed the link to HN in a comment on HN

I found it useful to make sure there wasn’t something I missed

Landing pages in a nutshell: remove objections.

Typical objections (as noted by many people here):

- I don't know what this is

- Is it relevant to me?

- How is this going to help me?

- Who else uses this thing?

- Why should I use this over the competition?

- How much time will it take for me to get set up?

Stripe landing page says " The new standard in online payments" ... out of genuine curiosity how is it fitting "Focus copy on them." ?

It's an Atlas Guide written by Joanna Wiebe who is not a Stripe employee.

Even if she was, companies are companies - not individuals.

"Them" in this case isn't the end consumer (you or me) but a business looking for an online payments solution.

Plus, Stripe is big enough that the landing page will focus more on overall company branding than that of a single product.

Because they've moved on to target the mass market, which is made up of people who just want to use the industry standard and don't care about specific features.

Their target customer is seeking the standard.

Some of the analysis looks a bit over the top. Generalization of an audience on this scale doesn't happen in 'landing page marketing'. You can give a turd a new name, but you cannot change who it is by doing so.

From a marketing point of view, I'm more impressed by the fact that the author got Stripe to publish this piece.

6 questions that should be answered above the fold of the page. These questions should be answered again in different ways throughout the page using pictures, text and video.

1. What is it?

2. What does it look like?

3. How big or small is it?

4. Can it be delivered?

5. Can I return it?

6. Can I trust it?

People consume content in very different ways. And showing, telling and demonstrating the product/service helps achieve #6.

Hmm, it depends.

Elsewhere someone bemoans that landing pages don't answer "what is it?".

Some (most!) sellers couldn't care less if it's right for you, just if you buy it. Spelling out what a product is can lose customers.

Example: Back in the day I bought a minidisc player-recorder as you could easily put/remove tracks digitally. Turned out you couldn't do that properly, only from computer, not to computer, making it terrible for live recording (my need). If they'd told me properly "what is it" then I would instead have bought an mp3 player.

Yup, still bitter - cost me many hours that mistake.

A corollary to this though, they made the sale, but I've never bought from the company (Sony) again.

Apple would never ever use the “it’s got Dolby Atmos” line. Can’t explain why, just doesn’t fit their tone of voice (historically).

I also find that advisory articles like these lose a lot of their luster when you start trying to outdo other people’s work.

Selling benefits you'd say "hear your music at it's freshest with our unrivalled audio fidelity" or somesuch, which of course is a lie; but that's marketing.

The advice is begin sentences with "You" or a verb. Seems like weird advice. There's nothing wrong with, say, this landing page: https://www.7-zip.org/

Following their rules would make it cringe-worthy.

Maybe for certain audiences, in certain types of corporate website, their advice is good, but the article doesn't define the domain to which the advice applies.

You're not trying to sell 7zip. Imagine 7zip is a $1000 software. Would that page make you buy it?

Now, starting every sentence with "you" is a bit odd, but the general idea is to focus on the user's problem rather than characteristics of the product. Fetures are boring, bland and frightening. I'm an user, I have problems, do you solve any of my problems?

"7-Zip is a file archiver with a high compression ratio. 7-Zip is free software with open source. The most of the code is under the GNU LGPL license. Some parts of the code are under the BSD 3-clause License. Also there is unRAR license restriction for some parts of the code."


"Are you fed up with buying hard drives after hard drives or choosing which files to delete and which files to keep, only to regret your decision afterward? Well, that time is over. With 7-zip, you can compress files more efficiently than ever and save space on your hard drive".

Or, if you're promoting free software:

"You don't want to buy one more software to archive your important files. At 7-zip, we heard you. 7-zip is free and open source, meaning not only you don't have to pay for it, but you can modify the source code if you really want to. You can even include it in your own, commercial software".

Technical landing pages are good when you address technical people that are already sold to your product.

What if the last one was something more like

“You running more than one app for compressing files? We were too. Someone sent your a file with a new compression format that you don’t recognize? It’s really frustrating.

We realized that most people need a tool they can reliably encode and decide in the right formats. We created 7-zip to be your trusted go to tool for managing all of your file compression needs. It’s free, open source, and developer friendly.

Let us show you how we can help you and your customers.”

You're better at this than me ;)

I guess this is a reminder of how being too nerdy warps my thinking. I mean, of the examples you've given, I'd pattern-match the middle one to "company selling bullshit", and I'd consider the last one needlessly annoying.

Do regular people really don't care about accurate information, and buy based on who can make nicest sounding blurb?

> I'd pattern-match the middle one to "company selling bullshit"

Me too. I'd guess most technically minded people will pattern match those two last examples as "company selling bullshit". In contrast, "7-Zip is a file archiver with a high compression ratio" conveys exactly the information I'm looking for.

Gentoo Linux used to have one of these cringe-worthy blurbs. Something about their mascot Larry the Cow and how he found all other distros "the same" but Gentoo was "different" [1]. It was confusing and embarrassing. Now Gentoo's landing page reads "Welcome to Gentoo, a highly flexible, source-based Linux distribution". I know which one is cleaner and easier to understand!

[1] now they seem to have moved it to a hard to find "about" page, right where it belongs: unseen! https://gentoo.org/get-started/about/

Well, first, I'm not necessarily the best copywriter in the world ;)

Now, you can be much more "under the radar", and focus a little more on technical features, but still from the user's perspective. Look at rust's landing page : https://www.rust-lang.org/ , or clion's : https://www.jetbrains.com/clion/

They use "you" a lot, and rather than telling "our product has such and such and such feature", say "you can solve this problem thanks to this feature, and this other problem with this other feature".

"With CLion, you can create code that's beautiful and correct at the same time. Potential code issues are identified instantly and fixed as you type! Be sure all the proper changes are handled automatically by CLion.

CLion also performs Data Flow analysis to find out all the cases of the unreachable code, infinite recursion and more."

is more appealing to me than "CLion features a dataflow analyzer that is 47% more efficient than eclipse and can detect 153% more potential bugs (unreachable code, infinite recursion, etc.)".

Thanks for those examples. I agree, they both seem to follow the pattern of "$product lets you solve $yourproblem", or "Thanks to $features, $product lets you solve $yourproblem".

Thanks to your comments, I'll be paying much more attention to use of the word "you" on product pages from now on :).

As for my objection - my favourite product descriptions follow the pattern of listing concrete features, and concrete problems they're meant to solve. I feel it's because I know the problems I have, I know what the features mean, and I don't trust vendors to be honest about general description. I think (I hope) this could be said about most technical people in technical fields.

The product pages for Rust and CLion essentially enumerate concrete features in prose, and that's why I like them. In CLion's case, this line didn't resonate with me:

> With CLion, you can create code that's beautiful and correct at the same time. Potential code issues are identified instantly and fixed as you type!

... but it got rescued by an attached screenshot, that effectively communicated what kind of issues they're talking about.

> [...] is more appealing to me than "CLion features a dataflow analyzer that is 47% more efficient than eclipse and can detect 153% more potential bugs [...]

Yeah, I don't like that imaginary line too, but that's because "47% better than competition", "153% better than competition" pattern-matches to me to car salesmen bullshit.

That must be because you're only considering products for which you've done extensive research / have intimate knowledge of.

Customers at early stages of the purchase cycle are often not aware of the problems a given product solves. They need to be educated about the value of the product by starting from a higher level.

It's only when people are sold on the value of the product that they're interested in learning how the product delivers that benefit and what its features are.

The message has to match the sophistication of the reader.

Sure, but you're not selling me on the value of the product with platitudes and meaningless sentences. Sentences like "X lets you solve your Y problems faster and better" have near-zero information value, because they don't define reference point and scale for "faster" and "better", nor do they say what "Y problems" it's helping to solve. I feel such copywriting only preys on people who can't read with understanding.

>Do regular people really don't care about accurate information, and buy based on who can make nicest sounding blurb?

Not only "regular people", but you too are disproportionally affected by "nicest sounding blurb", and just don't realize it.

Maybe? I don't know. Whenever I notice someone using nice blurbs instead of a honest list of features and problems they solve, I immediately weigh the product down in my list.

For stuff in your expertise yes, but for consumer products and services?

I'd say yes to most of them. It doesn't take more than high-school level of education and a nonzero interest in how things work to be able to evaluate such blurbs for consumer products and services. I may find myself lost when dealing with specialized products and services for areas I have zero experience with, but in those cases I try to completely ignore any information from product vendors, and read up on recommendations from communities in the area (a good starting point is usually /r/$area).

It can be very hard in highly niched domains. Very niched products typically have a high price / low number of customers profile, meaning you want to really be sure the product is right for you, but won't find any (or very little) recommendation online.

Imagine a consultant who offers consulting on using cryptocurrencies as a payment method for your online business. The fees are $250 per hour. You're a paypal user and briefly considered using bitcoins for your online business, but are not sure about it.

Or imagine a physiotherapist who offers a treatment for a very rare (but not life-threatening) condition no traditional medicine could cure. It is rather expensive, but the guy says he can help you, yet you won't find any testimonial on the web because of the rarity of the condition.

In those niche cases I'd push for a contract, or otherwise ensure I have some recourse if the product/service turns out to be fraudulent. I admit I'm somewhat risk-averse with meaningful sums of money.

Which breakfast cereal do you eay, and why?

I don't.

But if we're talking food in general, I have a relatively simple algorithm: I try out various price points of any given food category, and then settle on either: 1) for few cases where I care about taste, on the item that tastes best; 2) for everything else, cheapest one that isn't plain disgusting.

So e.g. for soft drinks, I have a strong preference of Pepsi Max > Coca Cola Zero > el cheapo diet cokes, which is based on trying them all out, and which changed over the years (e.g. couple years ago, I used to like one of the cheap brands the best). For cheese, I'll take the cheapest thing you've got that's yellow and is called "Gouda" or "Edam".

Brands are nothing to me beyond a way to distinguish between different tastes.

These blurbs probably work best the less you understand about the product or subject matter. If looking for a screwdriver, most of these blurbs will annoy me. If buying a car... maybe they'll work: I know nothing about cars.

The implication is that these blurbs are ads preying on the unknowing ;)

Your implication is my conclusion too :).

My GCSE English teacher insisted that when you write anything you should ask yourself who the audience is. If your audience is scientists or engineers, then give them facts.

This reminds me of the Perforce landing page from decades ago - in the pre Git era. Unlike all the other commercial version control vendors of the time, their page said basically, "Perforce is fast, reliable version control. It costs $79 per seat". That made me made me think, "ah, this is product designed for engineers", so I bought it.

Today, Perforce's landing page says, "Your DevOps Journey Starts Here" in big letters. How times have changed. I don't buy Perforce any more.

Yes, but you could also say that today's Perforce is completely different from the Perforce of a decade ago. Firstly, you don't need to pay for the Perforce you did 10 years ago.

Stripe doesn't have this same issue - they are still selling the same product they did when the founded the company.

If I had my way, that would just be a giant animation of zeroes and ones being put into compact packages which get unpacked at their destination. The text wouldn't be about "archives", and certainly wouldn't have a list of file extensions. No, it would be about how this product is all about allowing you to create, to be more. Which, after all, is what being about is all about.

Maybe it could have a video commercial even, I envision something with piano music? Two young, awesome looking people in a café on a rainy day.. they exchange a little glance, suddenly the image freezes and distorts, skip 20 years to the future, they have raised 4 kids, it quickly skips through birthdays, school rehearsals, all that stuff, then back to the present, where the tender love only just began to blossom.... and you realize, that's all contained in that simple glance, a lifetime of events and stories. As the 7-zip logo fades in, the camera pulls back from the table they're now sitting at together while staring into each others eyes to the point of going cross eyed, camera pulls further back through a window, and a homeless person sitting outside the café stands up and takes their hat off, to reveal fantastic, full, shimmering hair -- in the last instant of the commercial the viewer realizes: that's Jesus! He has come back, because finally, a product gets the whole mustard seed thing, and the time of healing has begun.

If think it can depend on how much the audience is expected to know about the topic and product beforehand. With 7-zip I'd expect much of the target audience knows about it, or at least knows what a zip program in general is.

When you are trying to describe something which is new (to the audience at least) it looks reasonable to me, to begin with "what can you get out of this and in what situation".

I mostly agree. I just don't think the "you" thing works on engineers. If an engineer doesn't know anything about your product, they want facts about your product.

It depends. The secret is first to address the customers' problems, then detail technical features. First, hook you with emotions, then shut your critical brain with facts.

For instance, look at rust's landing page at https://www.rust-lang.org/ :

"Rust : Empowering everyone to build reliable and efficient software."

There is a hidden "you" in this sentence (the hidden message is "even if you don't think you can, with rust, you can build reliable and efficient software"). And then, they go on with features : performance (no runtime, no GC), reliability (borrow checker), productivity (great documentation, great compiler eror messages).

I actually find it weird and a bit annoying that Rust's landing page doesn't mention that it's a programming language (it's in the page title and in one of the testimonials). I'm struggling to find another programming language's landing page that doesn't explicitly say it's a programming language!

It used to say "Rust is a systems programming language that runs blazingly fast, prevents segfaults, and guarantees thread safety" until the recent redesign.

It also showed a code example, so you couldn't really miss the fact (https://web.archive.org/web/20181114045725/https://www.rust-...).

I thought the hidden message was "you're an idiot, but with Rust even someone like you can build reliable and efficient software"

What's a more important fact/thing you want to know first? That the software "XYZ", can ingest 1M data points per hour or that it can actually solve "your specific problem". Given that you never heard about "XYZ" before.

I had never even read 7-Zip's landing page until now, even though it is always one of the first programs I install on Windows. The page is just fine for that purpose because the download link is clearly marked at the top of the page.

To the author's point about using "you", we could consider two hypothetical headlines for the 7-Zip page:

"7-Zip can compress and decompress just about anything."

"You can compress and decompress just about anything with 7-Zip."

I have to admit that if I had never heard of 7-Zip, the second line would probably be subliminally more effective because it gets me thinking about what I can do with the software, not what some abstract someone can do with it. On the other hand, combine such a headline with a Bootstrap theme and 500-pixel fonts over a giant stock photo, followed by three SVG bullet points, etc, and I'm going instantly into defensive mode--shields up!

>There's nothing wrong with, say, this landing page: https://www.7-zip.org/*

That's not a landing page in their sense. It's just a project page for a FOSS project.

Can anyone recommend any services that provide copy critiques like Stripe did to the websites in this post? I don't have the time to read and digest the book suggestions and I don't want to open a business with Stripe Atlas.

Am I the only one who is confused by the word "copy" in the headline? Is it meant in the meaning of "text" or am I missing the point here? I also can't find any synonyms used in the text below which would make its meaning in this context more clear to me.

See here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/copy

    4a : matter to be set especially for printing
    b : something considered printable or newsworthy [...]
    c : text especially of an advertisement

I'm not very familiar the terminology here, thanks for making this clear!

That's a rather well known lingo in web/marketing circles.

It's use in journalism, predates marketing, I believe.

The name says it all. Copy. It's a copy of some template all the marketing shops have where they replace a few words and an image to look like it's about a certain product. However, it being a copy, it's indistinguishable from the other 3 billion "copies" about different products.

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