Copywriting is more than words – a foray into information architecture (IA)

Once, our lead web developer fell off the roof of his house. (I’m glad it was just once or there’d be no end to the damage!)

He lived, but was drugged up to his eyeballs for several days to ease the pain in his leg, hip, ribs…

Bit of a mess really. Like the very large website rebuild project that he had involuntarily now abandoned. It was at the information architecture (IA) stage. Just before the build. It was for a new client that we definitely wanted to retain.

The importance of structure to copywriting

I know; this is a copywriting blog. So what does a developer’s disaster have to do with anything? Well, here begins the proof that copywriters can be more than wordsmiths.

Unbeknown to most, we can collaborate with more than designers, art directors and marketing managers. We don’t live (entirely) in a world of dreamy creativity.

Think about it. We create powerful writing through clear structure and flow. We’re logical beings.

Logic, structure and flow: isn’t this precisely what the information architecture (IA) of a website requires?

But that’s a developer’s job. Right? Well, now we didn’t have our lead developer.

He was sitting on the draft version of the IA, unaware of our plight (and many frantic emails) due to all the pain relief drugs. (He later confessed to having absolutely no memory of the first few days following his hospital release. The drugs must’ve been more effective than he’d expected.)

The junior developer was panicking. He had a looming build deadline and no IA to work from.

“I’ll do it.” I declared.

Taking on information architecture

That makes it sound like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. I was the intern copywriter. Fresh out of university having studied linguistics, not even writing or marketing. I certainly knew nothing of web development.

But, I’d seen the lead developer work on this. It was logical. A flow of information: what information do we want to present, where and when?

I’d already written several pages using the draft IA a few weeks back. So, I volunteered to write an expansive information architecture tree diagram.

Yep. My first ever. But, do you know what? It wasn’t so difficult.

I knew what the client’s services were. I knew what they sold. And, I figured out the logical way to get from A to B, like many websites I’d used before.

Think about it. As copywriters, we meet readers at their problem and guide them to the solution. Then, we ask them to take action. Usually, we do that in one piece of copy. But what about a whole website? It’s almost the same thing.

We say:

  1. We understand your problem and have the solution.
    1. Click here for the solution.
  2. Here is our solution in a nutshell.
    1. Click here to find out more details.
  3. Here are all the benefits you’ll receive (your problem solved) when you purchase this solution.
    1. Click here to purchase this solution.

I got some help on what was possible to build, provided by the other developer who’d had to step in. Now I knew my parameters too. I just had to create an IA structure for a 100+ page website for all the client’s products and services.

I wasn’t a whizz kid. I worked with others to achieve it. But I wrote the IA in time to get the build completed to deadline.

Copywriters do more than words

Sometimes, as copywriters, we need to step up to the plate. Believe we can do more.

Perhaps you could start by suggesting the type of image you want with the advert. Maybe you could wireframe that landing page so your copy sits as you envisaged. You could even create the IA for a new website you’re working on. Then you know each page serves a distinct purpose and the flow of information is logical. It helps enormously when writing the copy.

I dare you. Step out of the boat. Be more than words.


P.S. The developer who fell off his roof? He’s fine. At least, he didn’t lose his sense of humour.

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