Project Management

Design call-to-action statements that get results

Call-to-action statements are designed to provide value. Find out how to design effective call-to-action statements.

This article originally appeared as a Design and Usability Tactics e-newsletter.

By Jim Kukral

Browse your Web site as though you're a potential customer. Do you feel like you're wandering aimlessly, or do you have a clear sense of how to navigate the site? The difference can mean generating sales and/or gaining a valued customer, or never hearing from the visitor again.

Web designers and developers must learn how to convert casual Web browsers into loyal and frequent customers. The easiest way to encourage a window shopper to become a customer is to get the user to perform an action that you design. These specifically designed actions are known as call-to-action statements.

Call-to-action statements are designed to provide value to the Web site owner, as well as to the visitor. Types of actions may include:

  • Filling out a form for more information
  • Adding an item to a shopping cart
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Requesting a demo

Design easy, effective call-to-actions

A call-to-action is only effective if the user believes that the value they'll receive is greater than the effort they must exert to get it. In other words, don't make users work hard to act on your call-to-action statements.

In addition, most designers need to do a better job designing their call-to-action statements to monetize as many customers as possible. Here are a few ways to maximize the potential benefits of your call-to-action statements:

  • Use optimal space: Place call-to-action statements "above the fold" for lowest resolution. Typically, for 800x600, you wouldn't place it below 400 pixels. Also, call-to-action statements should appear in a prominent location next to, if not within, your main Web site message. The point of your call-to-action statement is to get visitors to notice and use it; therefore, it doesn't make any sense to hide or virtually bury the feature. Take a cue from supermarkets: They put their most popular items in places where shoppers are most likely to notice them. Supermarkets spend millions of dollars each year determining where to put products in their stores because they realize that the right placement and strategy can mean a big difference in sales.
  • Interlink the action: Hyperlink words, phrases, and even paragraphs within your Web site that logically lead to your call-to-action statements. For instance, if a passage on your site is talking about security, link to your security products page.
  • Don't go overboard: Concentrate on one action statement per page so visitors focus on one action at a time.
  • Speak up and be clear: Be up front about what the user needs to do, whether that means clicking a link or entering their e-mail address. Don't assume users know what you want them to do.

One advantage Web designers have is that you can control a user's online experience (to a certain extent) via a Web browser. Leverage this knowledge in order to design a page with call-to-action statements that fit within the visitor's comfort level. Both your company and the user will benefit.

Jim Kukral has spent the last seven years working in the trenches of Web design, development, and usability for Fortune 500 clients as well as mom-and-pop companies.

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