Whether developing website content, knocking out headlines for a digital campaign, creating subject lines for emails, or straight-up packaging copy, some of the closest collaborations I have as a copywriter are with my design partners.
Honing messaging, language, and voice are critical to successful content, but in my experience, so is understanding volume, placement, and how content interrelates and leads to other content. For instance, as someone who identifies as a visual writer, I like to get the “lay of the land” before I even begin writing. On the other side, I prefer to edit my copy after it’s been flowed in so I know that the words and visuals work well together and copy isn’t too dense. I ask myself, how can I make this tighter, more direct? That’s where wireframes, dielines, and sitemaps are enormously helpful tools for writers. All three are content roadmaps that help organize that content and take the consumer/visitor on a controlled, informative, and (hopefully) enjoyable messaging journey.
Can writers deliver effective copy without any of these three tools? Of course. And I have. Many times. Actually, more often than not. But with them, the process is more streamlined and there are fewer rounds of revisions, which translates into less writing/editing time. That always makes my clients happy.
If you’re unfamiliar with wireframes, sitemaps, and dielines, here’s a quick primer:
A wireframe is a blueprint that’s used for nearly every digital project. It sketches out the visual representation of a web page, landing page, or email to communicate the overall design concept. This critical design tool–used internally during the first stages of a website’s design–consists of lines, boxes, and text that helps designers and clients explore and agree on a digital asset’s look and feel.
Like the name suggests, a sitemap provides a map (overview) of all the pages within a website (or mobile app), and how those web pages and the content therein interrelate. Key for any writer! Sitemaps can vary from flow charts to simple list, but regardless of the form, they provide a high-level view of the digital project.
Used in the packaging and printing industry, dielines illustrate the layout of graphics and copy for a product or collateral. It shows things like where copy should be placed in relation to a packaging cutout, where the fold is on a brochure, and indicates perforations and cut lines.
While it took me a little while to be able to orient myself and “read” these tools, especially wireframes and dielines, understanding them really helped me work more efficiently and understand the designer’s point of view. Always a good thing.