March 17, 2013

4 Reasons Why Your Call-to-Action Button Sucks

4 Reasons Why Your Call-to-Action Button Sucks

For those of you new to web design terminology, call-to-action buttons are the icons on web pages that entice users to: Subscribe! Sign Up! Download! Register! Add to Cart! View Demo!

Occasionally, they’ll convince the viewers to: Subscribe Now! Download Free! Register Now! Sign Up For Free!

Misguidedly, some will require users to: “Click Here,” or “Find out How Much You Can Save by Clicking Here!”

If you are unsure as to what the difference is in the above examples, fear not: we’re here to guide you and possibly administer medical aid, if the process causes you to beat your head against your desktop in despair.

There are good call-to-action buttons and there are bad call-to-action buttons. The goodness or badness depends on several factors, which we’ll discuss here in terms amounting to no more than 800 words. Only 657 words to go.

1. Button Design

The design for a call-to-action button may seem obvious (round-ish and button-like, clearly), but many websites ignore the classic button shape in favor of a design that blends seamlessly – and pointlessly – into the rest of the webpage. This makes no sense, because you want the viewer to instantly identify how they can proceed to purchase, download or register for your products.

Make sure your call-to-action buttons stand out from the rest of the page graphics by enclosing them in eye-pleasing yet distinct button shapes. Believe it or not, it is actually more important that the webpage user to be able to instantly identify the call-to-action than it is for the user to linger on the webpage. If the viewers know what they want to accomplish, just give them the opportunity; there’s no reason to force them to scroll helplessly through all of your graphics and text if they know they want to “Register/Download/Buy Now!”

2. Wording

We find that short, clear phrases are always best. A call-to-action button that says “Click to Find Out How YOU can Instantly Save up to 50 % Off of Your Car Insurance” is information overload. If your site has made it clear that you offer a significant savings on title insurance, all your call-to-action button needs to say is “Click to Learn More,” at the most.

It’s also very important that the wording makes sense within the context of your service. Most people aren’t interested in “registering” for something when they aren’t assured that there’s some benefit to doing so. Who wants to get on some everlasting mailing list or possibly having personal information sold to third parties?

Let your potential customers know exactly what they’re going to achieve by clicking on an icon, whether it’s “Add to Cart,” “Free Download” or “Hot Live Action.” That last phrase may not be entirely appropriate for your company, but we guarantee that it will get tons of hits from a certain male demographic.

Also, the words “Free,” “Now,” and “Instant” are extremely inviting to potential customers. These are time tested power words that are proven to raise click through averages.  Example: “Instant Free Money, Now!” Be honest; would you click on that button? Neither would we, so use them sparingly.

Lastly, don’t make this mistake for your page optimization  Your buttons should contain readable text via CSS3, don’t just use a simple image replacement. I know that we have said SEO is dead but you still want to follow basic best practices.

3. Color

Like the design, the color of your call-to-action button must serve the overall design of the site while remaining conspicuous enough to catch the eye. While we don’t advocate the use of, say, plaid, you don’t want your call-to-action button to blend, chameleon-like, into the rest of the page.

4. Size.

Size matters.

Stop the self pity, we’re talking about call-to-action buttons. You can’t click on what you can’t see (well, maybe you can, but it’s usually purely accidental and extremely annoying). Your call-to-action button needs to be large enough and readable enough to draw the eye to it instantly.

You know how when an advertising window pops up and you desperately want to close it and continue to your intended destination but can’t because the “Close” button or “No thanks, proceed to site” icon is virtually undetectable? This clearly isn’t an accident, since the “Tell Me More” icon is large enough to develop its own ecosystem. Keep your call-to-action buttons large and in charge. We like to call them BFB’s.

So, what have we learned today? We learned that if you want your call-to-action buttons to actually call people to action, they have to be noticeably large, well-phrased, and contain a clear, simple and meaningful call to action. It’s really as simple as that.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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