Calls to action throughout your website

7 March 11 ,

I wrote about calls to action in reference to an advertising campaign’s landing page. A recent issue of my favorite web design podcast, however, pointed out that there are, or should be, calls to action peppered throughout your site. Some are less obvious than others, and some are there as much for users as they are for your website’s bottom line.

What is a call to action?

A call to action is simply something on a web page that motivates or encourages a user to do something. Obvious example include a button to subscribe to an RSS feed, or download a file. More subtle examples include lists of “related posts” on a blog, or a “next” button on a slideshow.

As I mentioned, some calls to action are clearly meant to fulfill business objectives — such as getting a user to purchase a product, or submit a contact form. Others simply help a user navigate through a site. For example, a visitor to your website should never face a dead-end, so a call to action can point a user where to go or what to do next.

What makes an effective call to action?

  • Make it obvious. Don’t bury an important call to action down in your website’s footer in tiny print. Make it bigger, give it a prominent place, and use other visual cues.
  • Use “active” language. Not necessarily commands (nobody likes a bossy website!) but, for example instead of “RSS feed”, you could say “Subscribe to our RSS feed.”
  • Make it personal. A contact form submit button, for example, could say “Send us your question” rather than just “Send” or “Submit”
  • Offer a carrot. Maybe someone signing up for your newsletter gets a freebie of some kind.
  • Make it easy. Don’t require someone who wants to send you a question tell you their life story and physical address. Keep the barriers to completing the action low.
  • Remove risk. This could be something like a “money-back guarantee” for an e-commerce site, or on a blog, a simple statement that a commenter’s email is never published or shared.

Further reading

The blog post which accompanies the aforementioned podcast is excellent reading, as is a previous post on boagworld.com.

Review your site

Browse through your own website with these “call to action” principles in mind. Note where you have calls to action and if they could be improved, or where they are missing altogether.

What do you think?
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