What Makes an Effective Call-to-Action?

Notice those website catchphrases that invite or ask you to join/call/visit/like them today? What makes you click on or respond to them? We always see these “call-to-action” (CTA) in ways that stand out in the website. A large, distinct font; a unique button; or a quirky, yet straightforward phrase can do the trick. Either way, a call-to-action serves an essential marketing purpose: to prompt a user to click on it.

First of all, what exactly are call-to-actions? According to BusinessDictionary.com, these are “words that urge the reader, listener, or viewer of a sales promotion message to take an immediate action.” It goes on to say that “a retail advertisement or commercial without a call-to-action is considered incomplete and ineffective.” But just because they are essentially words, don’t mean that they should be plain and boring. There are plenty of factors that can guarantee an effective CTA. Here are some guidelines and practices on how to create a good call-to-action.

  • Surround buttons with white space, which automatically draws the visitors’ attention to the CTA
  • Following the principle of using white space, use subtle textures to create a light contrast which guides the visitors’ eyes to the right direction.
  • Use a large, legible font which will allow visitors to read the CTA easily.
  • For common actions, use small, flat, monochromatic icons.
  • You can also pair down flat/line elements with bright colors, as well as clear and legible typography using a minimal approach.

call to action - typography

  • Minimalism is key. Pared-down design elements direct the focus on the important information and elements. A full screen search box (like Google) also works, prompting the visitor to enter keywords and hit ‘search’. Easy peasy.
  • While using radio buttons is a common practice, you can try using kiosk-style buttons, which provides a better visual text display. Not only it can be easily spotted, it also creates a bigger hit target.
  • Speaking of buttons, use a single ‘share’ button which avoids a cluttered look made up of several social network links that most users probably don’t use anyway. Meanwhile, large buttons are great when using mobile devices or tablets, which making tapping and swiping through buttons much easier.
  • When using icons for CTA, a hover effect is helpful for users to know that the CTA is active, which directs them to the page or information they need.
  • Animated buttons can also provide an extra touch to an otherwise static page.
  • The Metro style uses large imagery which helps users take a peek on what they’re about to see next.
  • You can use icon styles with long shadows which pop icons off the page.

call to action - icons

  • Once in a while, you can add quirky and playful elements, or use bright colors, to pique the visitors’ interest – just remember not to overdo it.
  • While it may not apply to all types of websites and targets specific customers, skeuomorphic design elements, which add a touch of vintage, yet familiar feel, to the look of the website elements.

call to action - skeumorphic

  • When it comes to the ‘how-tos’ of writing a great CTA, just remember to use friendly, conversational language. You’d like to engage potential customers, and you can start with making them feel welcome.
  • Allow users to connect via social networking platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. Avoid a long, laborious, and complicated registration process. As much as possible, make a simple form which allows immediate involvement.
  • Another great and powerful way of encouraging users is to create the sense of urgency. Phrases like “Call NOW For An Additional 20% Discount!” or “Only 10 Items On Stock!” prompts the user to act quickly.
  • Use on-page loading especially for information that the user may want to read or know immediately. Pages loading in another tab or window might discourage them or lose interest.
  • One-click register/login and automatic saving are very convenient and user-friendly features. Same as autocomplete, autocorrect and incremental search features, which all take less actions and means a better user experience.
  • Navigation links are extremely useful but as much as possible, should allow the user to get to get from any point of your website to another within 3 clicks.
  • A fun and interactive way that allows a user-generated experience is by providing voting/liking and/or ranking function – a powerful marketing method which allows for more content to enter social feeds, which means higher engagement and click-through rates.
  • When all else fails, badges and alerts are fool-proof ways to interact with users. Use them wisely.