Whenever you create content for your business or organization, you are hoping that it will cause your user to do something. Buy your product, like your Facebook page, subscribe to your newsletter, donate to your church. To nudge your viewer along, you need to have calls to action. In other words, it should be clear to the user what the next step should be.

If you aren’t a web expert or the concept of a call to action is new to you, fear not! This post will be a basic introduction to get you started. When you are ready to dive a bit deeper, there are some more resources at the end to take you further.

What’s a Call To Action?

A call to action (CTA) is how you ask your user to do what you want.
A call to action (CTA) is how you ask your user to do what you want. If you have an ecommerce store, your two big ones are your Add To Cart buttons on product pages and Checkout on your cart page and possibly elsewhere. These buttons prompt your user to become a customer and buy something. If you want more readers, you probably have a Subscribe button. If you run a photography business, you have a Contact Us buttons since you want clients to reach out to schedule a session. Or, if we go analog, your flyer probably has a strong message like Call Now. In emails you probably have Read More or Shop Now links. “If you think about it, every piece of content you create has a purpose. That means every piece of content needs a CTA to tell readers what action you want them to take.” (Optinmonster Blog)

How To Make A Good Call To Action

Be Clear

First, be clear with yourself and your user what the desired next step is. You should be able to articulate what you’d like your user to do next. Once you have that in mind, make it clear to the user too. It should also be clear to the user what will happen when they take the next step. The last thing a user wants is a surprise when they click through one of your buttons and get something they didn’t expect.

Don’t Distract

Ariel Kissing EricIn the wise words of Michael Scott, “Keep it simple stupid”. Great advice, hurts my feelings every time (any Office fans in the house?). This is a follow up on the last point; don’t throw in extra distractions that might keep your user from your call to action. Don’t ask someone to like your Facebook page just as you are about to have them complete a form. Don’t direct them to a buying guide just when they were going to add to cart. Just like when the Little Mermaid was about to seal the deal with the much needed kiss, don’t ruin things at the last moment!

Use Verbs

Use verbs in your call to action text. This makes the action seem doable and compelling. Instead of “Cart”, use “View Cart”. Instead of “Info”, use “Learn More”. Don’t be passive, tell them exactly what they should do. Your CMS (content management system, aka the software used to build your site) may limit what you can do with the main buttons. If that’s the case, you should still use effective text every time you manually create a call to action in your links, print pieces, and everything else.

Primary and Secondary

Sometimes there’s more than one possible action. You’d love someone to buy right away but they are still researching so you have an option to add to a wishlist. You’d like your user to donate but first they need to learn more about you. You wish they’d book a session right away but first they need to view your portfolio. We all wish that Ted Mosby was our user, but in most cases people won’t say “I love you” on the first date.

If you do have more than one possible next step, make sure to differentiate between them. The primary CTA should be the most prominent. This is often done with color and size.

Be Consistent

Throughout your site/flyer/email, keep your CTAs consistent. For example, it’s common in ecommerce to make all of your primary CTA buttons the same color. This helps users navigate your site more efficiently as they become familiar with with what to expect. Once they have come to expect consistently, don’t confuse them by changing things up.

Example | Jet Pens

Pens have been on my mind lately because my wife is really into them. She’s listed to every episode of The Pen Addict (did you know that there’s a pen podcast?!?) and is attending a pen tradeshow this weekend. There also happens to be an excellent site called Jet Pens which is the place to go online if you need pens of any kind.

To start, they have great category pages. No-nonsense, and right to the point! There are areas of their site that help you learn about the thousands of choices, but this part of the site is laser focused on helping you find the product you want and get it added to your cart. No unnecessary info and no distractions in sight.

Jet Pens Category Page

If you click through to a product page, you’ll see the same Add to Cart button as on the category page. You’ll also see that they have a Add To Wishlist button, but it’s a different color.

Jet Pens Product Page

Once you have added the item to your cart, the next action is to Checkout. It’s the same color and style as the Add to Cart button on the previous page so it’s easy to know that it’s the next step, even without reading anything. To be extra clear, they even list it twice to make sure you can find it. It could arguably be a little nicer looking, but it is easy to navigate. I’ll take an easy to navigate site over a beautifully designed one any day. (By the way, that good news if you aren’t a graphic designer… you can still make a highly functional site that will sell!) (And also, don’t mistake beautiful design for functional. A pretty site can be impossible to use and not make any sales. We aren’t making art here, we are trying to sell or convert!)

Jet Pens Cart Page

Jet Pens gets a high score in my book for having an easy to navigate site. Once I’m ready to buy, they make it friction-less.

Signing Out With More Resources

Aladdin gets a kiss thanks to his flying carpetA good Call To Action will be the push your user needs to seal the deal. An unclear one might cost you. Regardless of your software or design capabilities, you can take some simple steps towards making your CTAs as effective as possible.

Those are my top tips for making your calls to action better. Here are a few resources that I’ve found immensely helpful when you are ready to learn more. The one from Optinmonster is especially good.