Read the Signs
Photo by Murat Bengisu / Unsplash

Your users won’t read most of the copy you have in your app. This might sound harsh, but after watching people for years in usability tests, you come to realize that very few users actually take the time and effort to read what you have to say. Even when you are giving them an important warning or describing the core functionality of your product, they will gloss over it. When users skip your copy, they can become frustrated when they run into problems. Frustrated users will leave your app. In this blog post, we will outline the 3 most common reasons why this happens and what you can do to make every word count.

1. It’s too long or boring

Apps are in a battle for screen time. People download apps, not manuals, because they want to solve their problems effortlessly. Walls of lengthy text increase the effort and cognitive load of your users. Your users will skip long texts entirely and might run into problems later on.

Interact, don’t tell. Make it easy for users to understand the value of your features without using words. Archimedes already knew: “The only way to learn it is to do it.” Let your users go through one interaction at a time instead of trying to explain everything. If you cannot go around using text, try to be as succinct as possible.

Instead of showing all the text fields or actions in one long and daunting screen, you might also want to break up the user flow into small steps. If you make each step easier users will walk further. Most traditional usability guidelines follow this strategy.

2. You interrupt the user

Pop-ups, overlays, and dialogs are the staple of user interaction, they are also the bane of user experience. There is a costly war going on every second of your user’s attention. We have become almost conditioned to dismiss anything that gets in the way of our current task, the X button imprinted in our minds like the colour red to a bull. This is a problem for designers, developers and product managers everywhere, because the standard dialog is easy to design, easy to implement and arguably difficult to ignore.

Instead of interrupting, try enticing. Dismissable banners and snack bars can actually be more effective than pop-ups because they can stay on-screen permanently, co-existing with other content until your user is ready to action it. If you do need to block the user, consider adding a “remind me later” option as this also allows you to gauge user interest through tracking. Timing is everything, although it’s tempting to maximise the reach of your dialog by showing it early, you may achieve a better conversion rate by waiting for users to complete meaningful actions in your app.

Make sure you are designing your communication so that it is visibly different from standard pop-ups, banners or full-screen adverts. Another good strategy is to make your users come to you for the updates. Give users a small indication within the app that a new message is waiting for them and let them actively retrieve the latest information when it suits them.

3. Your users think they already know what they need

When we’re designing apps, we tend to assume that users will scan the page, consider all of the available options, and choose the best one. In reality, though, most of the time users do not choose the best option, they choose the first reasonable option. This behavior is known as satisficing, a combination of the terms ‘satisfy’ and ‘suffice.’ As soon as your users find a button that seems like it might lead to what they are looking for, there’s a very good chance that they will tap it.

You can use this knowledge to make sure that your users are not skipping past elements that might help them in their journey. Consider changing the flow or show buttons only after the user performed an action. Be mindful to only use this when you have to communicate something truly important. Your users will get frustrated if you put hurdles in their way.

You can also change the text on the button from the standard “Continue” to an action, like “I did x” e.g. “I have my ID ready”. This technique can help with slowing down users who are tapping quickly away to get to their goal.


You made it to the conclusion (or you skipped to it ;D ). In the end, it can be said that users do not read your copy because it is too long, it is timed badly or they just scan your copy for the crucial bits because of the sheer amount of information aimed at them. Once you are aware of these pitfalls, you can employ a range of user experience improvements to make your copy more impactful and your user’s life easier in one go.

written by Theo Allardyce and David Gattig