By Michelle Barnett
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How does a Call to Action increase website traffic?

A Call To Action is a design term used for any element on a web page that is asking the viewer to do something.

When people come to a website it’s usually not hard to figure out what they are looking for. Most organisations can come up with a list of the kind of visitors their website will get, and what those visitors are hoping to achieve. If your Call To Action is clear, it will help visitors get to their goal by leading them to the right parts of your website.

Some of the most common Calls To Action are:

  • Buy a product or service
  • Learn more about a subject
  • Continue to the next page (often used in surveys and payment processes)
  • Sign up to join a mailing list to get general updates
  • Contact the organisation directly to ask for more bespoke information

Calls To Action often appear as buttons and hyperlinks. The contrasting colour or underline signals the viewer that this element can be clicked and will take them somewhere. Calls To Action can also be phrases, such as in this ad for mindfulness app Headspace. After the company logo is an instruction to ‘Snuggle up to Headspace’, followed by two incentives (a 30% off deal, and the possibility of improved sleep). Finally a clearly marked button is our final Call To Action, giving the viewer a clear way to to make the snuggling happen.

The design of your website as a whole is really key here, because guiding visitors smoothly to those clickable points involves not just the Call To Action itself, but everything else around it. It prepares the viewer to accept and need the payoff that your Call To Action offers them, by presenting the case for your service.

Use visual hierarchies to direct attention

Not all actions are equal, to either the organisation or their web visitors. If all your Call To Action buttons are the same size, shape, and colour, it implies that no action is more important than another. In reality this is rarely the case. Having navigated through a clothing retailer’s website to a stunning jacket, it’s much more likely that the customer will want a ‘Buy now!’ option than to go and investigate the sock selection.

Similarly, someone doing a survey may want to go ‘Back’ and change some information, but they are much more likely to want to click ‘Next’ and complete the questionnaire. We can make that search easier with how we set up the size and emphasis of these elements on the page, visually prioritising the option they are more likely to want.

Call to action visual hierarchies

Left: Both buttons carry the same visual weight.                Right: The ‘Next’ option is presented as the preferred option.

The Call To Action doesn’t need to be flashy or obnoxious; it can be quite subtle while still drawing attention. The aim here is to remove as many barriers as possible from between the viewer and their goal. If an action is too hard to find your audience may give up.

Avoid dark patterns

It might be tempting to use visual hierarchy to try and railroad your visitors into particular courses of action, even if it’s not in their best interests. For example, this Instagram pop-up presents the option to ‘Make Ads More Personalized’ as the largest box in the brightest colour, and framing the idea as if it is giving the user something valuable. This makes it look like the preferable option, when in fact it benefits Instagram more than it does the app user, because it gives them permission to mine data.

Anyone not looking closely, fed up of pop-ups, or simply browsing in a rush, could easily fall for the trick and give permission for something they don’t really want.

It might look like a nifty shortcut to sales, however this kind of user interface, known as ‘dark patterns’ is increasingly seen as manipulative and trashy. We prefer giving users a genuinely smooth and useful experience that builds your brand reputation in the long run.

With this in mind, take a look at your current website and the pathways you’re presenting to your clients and other online visitors. How easy is it for them to complete the tasks they were aiming for? Do you have enough Calls To Action available to meet their needs, and are those calls arranged in a way that is helpful and useful?

If you’re not sure, or can see some room for improvement, email us at and we can start walking you through how to streamline your web design and get a user experience that helps you meet your aims.

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