4 Design Strategies That Make a Compelling Call to Action

Information overload is a problem everywhere but a crisis on your ecommerce site. Make it easy for customers to see what you're encouraging.

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By John Boitnott Originally published Oct 2, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In today's do-it-yourself world, many business professionals handle their own website design. They may be using a template-based service like Wix or WordPress to create a professional-looking site, choosing from one of many designs available. More often than not, businesses opt for a design that is easy to update, accommodating existing logos, colors, and text. By doing this, you may not realize that ongoing mistakes in your design are resulting in lost sales.

One of these mistakes is a call to action (CTA) that is lost or easily overlooked. Fixing this problem can potentially improve conversions, bringing in thousands of dollars in extra sales each month. Here are a few things you should check for to make sure that your call to action shines through.

Related: Crafting a Persuasive "Call to Action" on Your Site

Test user friendliness

There's a reason user experience is increasingly important in design. It's important that a business approach its website from the same perspective as the customers who will be using it. This includes viewing it on mobile, as well as PC, and making sure all buttons and forms are easy to find and use.

One technique employed by user experience experts is to understand the various stages a customer goes through in making a decision. When customers first visit your site, what information are they likely seeking? On an ecommerce site, customers are likely most interested in finding a specific product, so it's important that both a search button and category-based browsing options are made available and easy to use.

Will customers want to compare products? If so, your site should have an easy-to-use comparison tool in each area a customer would be searching for it. Your calls to action should each be geared toward that particular phase of the shopping experience.

Provide instruction

There's a reason mega-sites like Amazon use verbs on each call to action. Verbs correspond to action, so wording such as "add to cart," "add to wish list," and "sign in" stimulate visitors to do something. Your CTA should be in the same place on each page for consistency, especially if the action item is something a user might want to complete from any page on your site, such as "add to cart" or "check out."

"Tell the user what to do," says Pek Pongpaet, founder of San Jose design firm Impekable. "Be very explicit. A call to action must prompt the user to their next logical course of action."

Related: 5 Elements of an Irresistible Call to Action

Use contrast

Colors and placement are crucial in website design, since a customer's eye will likely be drawn to certain elements on a page. CTAs work best prominently placed with plenty of white space around them. If the call to action is on a button, it should be in a color that draws the customer's eye, compelling him or her to click.

Professional designers often use contrast to create visually-appealing designs. As demonstrated here, contrast is the placement of dramatically different elements (light vs. dark, large vs. small shapes) to create drama and call attention to an item. The call to action should be designed to draw the eye to that part of the page. Having it in stark contrast to the background of the page is a great way to lure the user's attention to it.

Avoid clutter

Websites can fall into the trap of trying to load everything on each screen. This can easily lead to a cluttered design that confuses and loses visitor interest. This is especially true if the clutter is created by multiple calls to action. From a user experience standpoint, you should take in all of the calls to action on each page and ask yourself which one draws the user's attention first? Is it the one you most want to call attention to? Set priorities and make sure your top priorities are getting the most attention.

"Don't overload a page or screen with too many calls to action," says Pongpaet. "This will only overwhelm the user. Each screen or page should have a primary objective and that should have a corresponding CTA."

For any business website, calls to action are essential. By using the tools available today, you can determine whether your design supports your calls to action or interferes with them. In addition to website analytics, you can also feel free to ask your loyal customers what they like and dislike about your site. No matter how you get there, the goal is to create calls to action that will swiftly and smoothly get your visitors where they want to go.

Related: 5 Great Call-to-Action Film Quotes For Entrepreneurs

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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