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The concept behind a call to action is simple: you ask somebody to do something, whether it’s to buy a product or sign up to an email list, or even just to read a blog post. 

Essentially you are giving somebody a nudge in the right direction, like a 21st century version of the guy in the shop saying, ‘Are you ready to pay for that, sir?’

What makes a good call to action?

This is a difficult question to answer in absolute terms, because there is no strict right or wrong way to do it.

If you test it out and it works then it’s a good call to action. And you should always test it. 

That said: there are a number of call to action best practice elements that have been shown to increase the chances of success. 

  • Size
  • Colour
  • Wording
  • Contrast with the rest of the page
  • Position
  • Urgency

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some good examples of calls to action. 

Disclaimer: I don’t actually have stats for all of these so this is far from a scientific assessment. I’m choosing these examples based on the points mentioned above. 

Sports Direct

Sports Direct has opted for a large green button that contrasts nicely with the page around it. It’s pretty much impossible to miss it. 

Sports Direct call to action

Firebox

This call to action on the Firebox product pages is placed nice and high above the main text and just below the price and product name. 

Firebox has opted for a slightly less garish colour that fits with the rest of its brand, but the button still contrasts well with the area around it.

The button is also right next to the image so it’s really easy for people to see and click on it if they like the look of the product. 

Firebox call to action

Dropbox

Dropbox has gone for a blue button, which fits with its brand colours but also happens to stand out really well against the simplistic white background. 

The button is placed below some very clear bullet points describing what the site does, with a simple illustration next to it so people are absolutely clear what they are clicking for. 

Dropbox call to action

Basecamp

I really like this call to action. Firstly it ticks the boxes for contrasting colours, size and page position. 

But I also like the way it uses friendly language on the button copy itself and clearly states what you get in return for your click. 

There’s also a social proof element in the form of the  ‘6 million active users and counting’ line below. 

Basecamp call to action

Manpacks

While I find the concept of this business somewhat ridiculous, Manpacks certainly knows how to create an effective call to action. 

Even though there’s quite a lot going on in the background, the ‘Get Started’ button clearly stands out. 

Again, social proof has been put to good use here with a message asking visitors to ‘join 1000’s of men already signed up,’ along with a list of well-known company logos below. 

Manpacks call to action

GoTo Meeting

Great use of colour again here. A bright orange is always going to stand out but without the negative connotations of red. 

GoTo Meeting has opted for a slightly stronger shade than on its logo, so the button stands out more but still looks like it fits with the rest of the branding. 

The positioning is also spot on, with the button right in the middle of the page so your eyes are naturally drawn to it. 

GoTo Meeting call to action

Charity: water

We’ve talked about Charity: water's marketing efforts on this site a few times, particularly its content and social media. But the call to action on its home page is also worth a mention.

Again there is lots going on in the background, but the button is really visible and contrasts with the changing photos behind, and the text above clearly tells you what to expect and why you should click. 

The text on the button also leaves no doubt as to what you’re clicking for, which is a nice touch. 

Charity: water call to action

Crazy Egg

There are lots of positives to note here: the colour of the button, the fact that it clearly stands out against the background, and the straightforward text on the button that tells you exactly what you’re getting when you click.

But it’s also worth mentioning the text next to the call to action, which really simply states all the key points about the free trial. People are more likely to click if the features and benefits are immediately clear. 

Crazy Egg call to action

Firefox

Firefox has opted for an extremely simple design here, stating in only four words why you should go with its browser right above a very clear button.

The fact that it says ‘free download’ on the button rather than something like ‘download now’ is also a nice touch. It’s giving people another reason to download it without cluttering up the rest of the page with more text. 

Firefox call to action

Siracha2Go

I’ve included this call to action because I like the way it is placed below a number of customer reviews. 

Social proof can be really effective in swaying people’s buying decisions, so it is a clever move to have a clear call to action button just below this section. 

Siracha2Go call to action

Bonus tip: not the be all and end all

No matter how ingenious it might be, no call to action is going to save you from a rubbish deal, product, piece of content or whatever it might be. 

Yes, it’s important to get the call to action right. But it’s not going to make your business successful on its own. 

Jack Simpson

Published 28 July, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (14)

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Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

I think the number of green buttons is interesting; there's a lot of colour theory that says that green is a "calming" colour, and that calls to action may wish to be more "energetic", hence why orange is often chosen.

almost 2 years ago

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson, Writer at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

@Stuart - there does seem to be a disproportionate number of green buttons across all the websites I checked (including ones not listed here), and I'd be interested to know why they all chose it. Presumably (you'd hope) it was after some testing, but perhaps people just use it because of its association with positive emotions.

almost 2 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Contrasting color, imperative tense, and (with one exception) positioned near the middle of the page. But little agreement about the actual words.

So do the actual words even matter much, so long as it's clearly a call to action?

almost 2 years ago

Prashant Telang

Prashant Telang, Director at TransPacific Software

I think these colour theories , Call for action etc. are bit over-hyped & over analysed . So a green button will get sales and red button will not? Sounds an insult to user intelligence. As ecommerce consultants and developers we advise our clients to have good clean user friendly website (not to spend too much efforts on these over-blown theories) and put all efforts in content development .

almost 2 years ago

Prashant Telang

Prashant Telang, Director at TransPacific Software

So a green button will give you sales and Red button will not? Sounds like insult to buyer’s intelligence. I guess these color theories, call for action analysis etc. are over hyped , over analysed issues ; mainly used for social media content creation.
We as eCommerce developers and consultants advise our clients not to spend too much time of these and put all efforts on creating great content

almost 2 years ago

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Klynn Alibocus, Customer Experience Strategy Manager at AXA Wealth

I agree with you Prashant that good UCD will drive results, but colour does come into UCD, so I don't think its a matter of user intelligence , but deep rooted psychology. There is enough empirical research out there to help inform an approach to using colour e.g. https://www.psych.rochester.edu/research/apav/publications/documents/2007_ElliotMaier_ColorandPsyFunct.pdf

although I would say the best way to understand and determine this better is to undertake your own Multivariant A/B test (make sure your test methodology and parameters are solid though) , this way you can provide evidence into which colour works best for a CTA.

I would however look beyond the traditional testing variables, so if you're a global company and are selling to different cultures across the globe, they associate different traits to colour e.g. Red is associated to caution, where as in China it's luck :)

It goes without saying understand your user "deeply" and if the colour of a CTA improves sales (http://contentverve.com/10-call-to-action-case-studies-examples-from-button-tests/) then why wouldn't you do it?

almost 2 years ago

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson, Writer at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

@Prashant and Klynn - you both make good points. When it comes to button colour I think contrast, i.e. how well the button stands out against the background, is probably more important than the colour itself.

But as Klynn mentioned, if you test a different colour and it converts better then there's your answer. Anything is worth experimenting with.

almost 2 years ago

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson, Writer at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

@Pete - again I would say this comes down to testing. But I suppose it would also be determined by your brand's general tone of voice. Innocent Drinks, for example, will probably use more playful language than a company like Microsoft.

I think the most important thing is that it's crystal clear what the person is clicking for, e.g. 'Buy Now' or 'Free Download'.

almost 2 years ago

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Jim Hunter, Consultant at VersionUX

And, er, green = go, right?

almost 2 years ago

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Jim Hunter, Consultant at VersionUX

And, er, green = go, right?

almost 2 years ago

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John Davies, Campaign Manager at Royal London

Thanks Jack,

In my experience, the colour of the button is interesting, but in many cases is decided by the brand or style of the company involved (as in the Firebox example). Perhaps less scientific thought is used than you think?

What is intersting is the affect that the language on the button can have (sign up vs hear from us for example). By framing the request in differnt ways, you can test different messaging and responses.

almost 2 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

There are many factors that make an effective CTA and work together, so taking any one factor in isolation (like button colour) is in danger of being unscientific.

@John: just as you said!

Anyway, the lighting where the user is: sunlight, yellow tungsten light, blue-white LED etc: all can change the way the eye 'sees' colour shades.

John you mention the Text factor: and look at the vast number of ways words can be put together to say something similar: and the level of sub-text that can hide in among short sentences!

Add on top of that the visuals: the photo of the face: just what kind of face is a huge variable.

Lastly: there is habituation: the more times consumers buy on the line: the less difficulty their brain has in finding the CTA.

Like driving: once you've had enough experience: you can drive somewhere and afterwards when asked, be completely, 100% unaware that you drove past 3 miles of nasty road-works! Because your brain already knows how to handle, without thinking, every event: overtake, turning, accelerating, slamming of brakes because someone cut in : everything is auto-pilot!

almost 2 years ago

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Gordon Stark, Sole Trader at Buzzabout

I am not a developer or involved in website construction but I do think that there are too many variables in play that there will be no hard and fast with regard to this. I do however agree with Jim Hunters idea. In most western countries Green means go, it's fundamental in driving Green means go, it's safe to move etc. A Green light indicates it's time for the traffic to move, a green man for pedestrians to cross, the "Green Cross Code" in the U.K. etc etc. It may be a simple way of looking at this but in most cases simplicity is the way and in my personal opinion sums up the best choice of colour for a Call to Action perfectly.

over 1 year ago

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Jim Hunter, Consultant at VersionUX

Thanks but not my idea. UX must pull on common sense which in practice means the most prevalent and universal convention available. I'm sure there's some exceptions to this but just Googled traffic lights in China and I think we're good to go, cheers.

over 1 year ago

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