Either way, one of the best ways to gain clarity about what your website needs is to ask yourself a simple question: “What do I want people to do after they’ve visited my website?”
Because once you’ve answered this question, it’s far easier to sort through the information you need, convey your plans to a website designer, and built a website with a compelling and intuitive call-to-action.
What is a Call to Action?
A call-to-action is exactly what it sounds like: it is a part of a website which encourages visitors to take the next step.
The appearance of a call-to-action can vary depending on what action they’re encouraging the visitor to take. Most of them include a short sentence or two to explaining what the action is (and why the visitor should follow through). Many of them include some type of contact forms or email sign-up forms. Others have a “buy now” button. Some have buttons leading to other pages or downloads. And some simply have directions to a local business or store.
Regardless of what exactly they look like, good ones will have the following:
- They stand out from the rest of the content enough to be noticed (and they’re easy to find)
- They provide coherent synopsis or a simple explanation of the proposed action to the visitor
- They encourage the visitor to take that action
- They make that action as easy as possible to accomplish
Why Should You Have a Call to Action?
Without a pre-determined call-to-action, websites can appear muddled, confusing, or overwhelming. Some websites provide information to the visitors, but fail to make it easy for the visitor to take the next step. (Or, even worse, they don’t give enough information for the visitor to even know what the next step should be.) Other websites give their visitors a plethora of choices and options, but this can have the same result if visitors can’t easily locate the most pertinent call-to-action, or get distracted by the non-important options provided to them.
Call-to-action areas can also help you communicate with those visitors who are simply skimming your content. By providing them with a quick synopsis and easy-to-take action, your website avoids falling into the “TL;DR” category.
So, What Should Your Visitors Do?
The precise type of action you’ll want your visitors to take is something only you can ultimately decide. But thankfully, the choice is often an obvious one. Many times, it can be determined just by asking yourself what type of business you have!
A (Non-Exhaustive) List of Options
Who it’s for: Any brick-and-mortar storefront, church, or other business where walk-ins are welcome
What it looks like: Information to help people find you in-real-life: location, hours, and directions.
“Request a Consultation”/”Get an Estimate”
Who it’s for: Any business which offers custom services or contract labor
What it looks like: Your phone number (optional) and a simple contact form to collect the visitor’s request and contact info.
“Schedule an Appointment”
Who it’s for: Any business where your primary interactions with clients are appointment-based (and don’t require a preliminary consultation)
What it looks like: Your phone number (optional) and a form which asks your visitors what time works best for them. (Even better: booking software which show the visitors what time slots are currently available to them.)
“Sign Up for Emails”
Who it’s for: If your email list is a primary focus of your business or organization, then this is a valid option for you. But for most websites, this should be a secondary call-to-action — more on that shortly.
What it looks like: A form which collects the name and email address of your visitors, plus a clear description of the sort of emails you’ll be sending (and a rough estimate of how frequently they’ll be sent).
“Buy Now”/”Get Tickets”
Who it’s for: Selling anything online? Products, subscriptions, tickets… then this is for you.
What it looks like: Technically, this can be just a button leading to the checkout process – but you should also include a clear product description and price in an easy-to-find spot. (Don’t force people to add things to their cart before showing them the price, please!)
“Register”/”Create an Account”
Who it’s for: If your site includes a membership section (and the membership section is a the main purpose of your site) then this is for you. This doesn’t apply to non-website memberships, though — gym, club, or other similar memberships should include “Buy Now” types of verbiage.
What it looks like: A membership registration form – this can be as simple or complex as you need it to be.
Who it’s for: Charitable and/or religious non-profit organizations. Political organizations or candidates.
What it looks like: A payment form which allows the visitor to select their donation amount, or a link to a third-party giving website. (You should also include a statement with legal disclaimers, information, and tax-deduction information)
Who it’s for: Invite-only events such as weddings, reunions, or dinners…
What it looks like: A form which collects the visitor’s names, party size, and whether or not they’ll be attending or not.
Do I Have to Pick Just One?
Nope. But you should avoid picking any more than are necessary. Choosing more than one call-to-action should only be done when you know it will enhance people’s experience on your website, rather than confusing them.
A church website, for instance, might have two types of visitors they’ll want to provide information to. They’ll want to provide “Visit Us” type information for those who’ve never attended before, and might also want to provide small group updates or announcements to their regular members. In this case, it makes sense to have two different goals for visitor interaction, because there are two different types of visitors coming to their website.
Multiple paths of action can also work as a backup system to help you retain customers. An out-of-stock product, for instance, could have the “Buy Now” button replaced with a “Notify Me When This Is Available” button which collects the visitor’s email address.
Just be careful not to fall into the trap of adding extra options just because you can. Your LinkedIn profile might be super cool, for instance, but it’s probably not the best way to convince people to visit your local farmer’s market.
Ready for a Website?
So now that you know what your website should do, it’s important to communicate that vision with your web designer. Make sure they know about what the point of your website is, and what you want visitors to do when they’re browsing your website — doing so will help your web designer to figure out how best to organize your website, and which elements should visually “pop” and stand out.
Need a web designer? We’re glad to help! Contact us to get started.