When a visitor comes to your site you want them to take action. You want them to make a purchase or sign up for your newsletter. Maybe you just want them to click deeper into your site or continue reading the next page of your article. No matter what you want them to do you need to provide calls to action on your pages to direct visitors to the action you want them to take.
What Is A Call To Action
When a visitor lands on any one of your web pages you don’t want them to have to guess what they should. You want to tell them and the way to let them know what to do next is a call to action. A call to action is something you add to your web pages to compel a visitor to take a desired action. An obvious example is the ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’ buttons you see on most ecommerce sites. The buttons will generally stand out from other elements on the page to make them easy to find. They should contain action words like buy and add that act like subtle commands to produce the desired action.
The ‘buy now’ and ‘add to cart’ buttons are examples of primary calls to action. Primary calls o action must be obvious. They should appear above the fold and not be buried in your text. To make them stand out they might be images and use colors that are in contrast to the main colors of the page. While linking the words ‘buy now’ as text within your content would still be considered a call to action it wouldn’t be primary and most likely wouldn’t be as effective as the button at the top of the page.
Your primary calls to action on a given page will be the actions you most want visitors to take yet they won’t be the only action your visitors might take. Maybe a visitor isn’t ready to buy now. You still don’t want them to leave. In addition to your primary call to action you want to add secondary calls to action on your page.
Your secondary calls to action will still contain the same action text, but they won’t be quite so obvious. These secondary calls might be a little smaller in size or use colors that while still standing apart will blend a little more with the page. You want visitors to see them, but not before your primary call. A text link at the bottom of your page saying ‘contact us for more information’ might be an example of your secondary call to action on that page.
Why Calls To Action Are Important
P.T. Barnum once said “You’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public” or something similar. Not exactly the most flattering quote about those of us living in the U.S. and not really the way I prefer to think of people. The point though of why I mentioned the quote is you need to assume your visitors won’t know what to do when they arrive at one of your pages. If you want them to do something you need to tell them what it is they should do. It’s not about talking down to your visitors or assuming they’re stupid, but rather making sure they know what to do instead of leaving them guessing.
Lets consider an example. Suppose you follow a link from a search query and land on a page about exactly what you were looking for. There’s a single article on the page and it answers every question you have and when you’re done you’re feeling very happy with whoever it was who created that page. You’re so happy you want to know more or even make a purchase. That’s great for the site owner who’s in business selling the very same product you were just reading about. You look over the page again and find there are no links anywhere, no navigation, nowhere to go next. With nothing else to do you leave the site.
You obviously wouldn’t create a web page without a link or some general navigation on it (you wouldn’t right?). Let’s expand the example and say after reading the article you really are ready to make a purchase. This time after look over the page again you find two links. One says ‘Learn More’ and the other says ‘About The Author’ Which one would you click if you wanted to buy? You don’t really want to learn more since you’re already sold and you’re not particularly interested in learning about the author at the moment. Maybe you don’t even consider that the learn more link might contain information about how to make a purchase or the about the author page had contact information. Again you just leave. What if right at the top and bottom of the page there was a ‘buy now’ button? Never assume your visitors will know what to do on your pages. Tell them what to do. Some people will dig further into your site on their own. Some won’t. Don’t let those people who won’t leave. Tell them what to do next.
Balance in Calls To Action
There’s a balance when it comes to calls to action. Even though you’d probably like your visitors to buy every one of your products you don’t want to leave a call to action to all of them on every page. Think about your page and think about which product a person on that page would most likely want to buy if the landed there. That should be your primary call to action. Other related actions they might take if they decide not to follow the primary call would be your secondary calls. Maybe the secondary call would be the ‘call for more information’ link or maybe it would be a link to a related product.
There’s also a balance in how you present your calls. You want people to see them, but you don’t want to push them. People don’t like to be oversold and if you try they’re just as likely to distrust you as they are they are to take action. Think of the stereotypical car salesman with the plaid jacket and greased back hair. He’s pretty obvious and hard to miss yet do you really want to do anything he says. Tone down some of those calls and add a little subtelty to them. Not too subtle since you want them to be noticed. Just don’t take them too far. A button is fine. A flashing button may be too much
As valuable as traffic is it’s essentially useless if people land on your pages and have no idea what to do. Make sure you provide calls to action as to what they can and should do next. Tell them with visible clues that stand out and action words that command their attention. Tell them to ‘buy now while supplies last,’ ‘subscribe to our free newsletter,’ or ‘contact us to receive your discount’ and more of them will. They’ll contact you, subscribe for more, and even make a purchase. Add calls to action on your site and watch your sales improve.
Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.