Get ready to see some action — with effective Calls to Action

Bring the Action — designing CTAs

Whether it’s in TV commercials, traditional media, social media, or the web, we use words and visuals to drive user action and achieve goals. In this blog post, I talk about the role of a Call to Action on the web and how it can be optimized to drive conversion.

Here is a shortlist of the content

· What is a Call to Action?
· Do I even need a CTA? (Spoiler: Yes, you do)
· What types of CTAs are there?
· How do I design a CTA?
· CTAs as part of your Content Strategy

What is a Call to Action?

A Call to Action, or CTA for short, is a marketing term that is used to describe a direct request to the audience to do something. In other words, it is a tool that can be used across all marketing channels to drive user action.

And it should come in the form of a button, btw.

Do I even need a CTA?

Yes, you do. And here is why.

Over the last few years, users have gotten more and more used to Call to Action Buttons. Users have learned what they look like and know where to find them.

Studies show that CTAs motivate Users, and they are a great opportunity to keep users engaged. However, they are not only helpful for your users, but they also help to achieve business goals.

Here are some more resources about the science behind this:

📝 The Science of CTAs: 5 Things That Drive Conversions
📝 Learning the Art & Science of Call to Action Buttons
📝 Psychology of a button

Let's look at some different types of CTAs.

Types of CTAs

Not all CTAs are designed to directly drive sales, there are usually a few steps before that, in earlier phases of the sales funnel as well.

To lead users along your conversion funnel smoothly, you should use different types of CTAs across your website.

1. Learn more CTA

Learn more CTAs can be used to lead users that are not ready to buy deeper into your website. Therefore, it is commonly used on homepages.

And by that, I don’t mean that your button should say “learn more”

It just refers to a CTA that engages your audience deeper with your content.

I would even argue that “Learn more” is not specific enough as a CTA, and the word “learn” could sound like too much work for some users.

Patagonia uses CTAs to engage audiences with their content by providing a video

2. Lead Magnet CTA

A lead magnet is typically a form where users submit personal data in exchange for a free offering.

Popular options are E-books, Checklists, or Whitepapers. Of course, the offering should be valuable to the audience.

They are very powerful and important to generate leads and they should have very few fields to fill out.

The higher the value of the offering, the more effective the lead magnet.

Here is a full guide for Lead Magnets:

Lead Magnet Example by

3. Contact/Support Requests CTA

Popular types of forms are contact forms, support requests, free trials, or free demos. They do not only consist of a CTA but typically have a few more fields.

There is one more thing you have to be aware of for both of these types:
More fields mean less conversion. Always.

More form fields, less conversion

4. Purchase CTA

This one is especially important for e-commerce and software or information products.

There is a psychological concept called the “Pain of Paying”. It refers to the negative emotions that we humans experience when we are in the process of buying a good or service. Because hey, it is also a process of “losing money” and as marketers, we should not forget that.

Paying cash hurts. So, what can we do about that?

The best you can do here is to reduce the pain of spending money by creating trust (e.g. by showing reviews, success stories), showcasing your product in the absolute best way possible, and just overall convincing users that they are making the right decision.

Be transparent. Showcase your expertise.
Use trust-creating copy when needed.

How do I design a CTA?

CTAs are influenced by 3 factors:

1. Copy (what it says)
2. Design (how it looks)
3. Location (where it is placed)

Factor 1: Copy

The copy of a CTA needs to be persuasive, clear and condensed.

Step 1: start with verbs that drive action. Common choices are:
buy, try, get, start, download, subscribe, join.

Step 2: create a sense of urgency. Common choices are:
now, just, limited, quickly

Step 3: be clear about the value.
Explain what users get, and why they should perform the suggested action.
Use additional copy to explain if necessary.

free trial, e-book, demo, checklist, whitepaper

So, very basic CTAs could sound something like:

Download E-book now


Buy limited edition T-shirts

pampers: action, value, urgency — A perfect call to action. They also use some more copy to explain the “Why” further.

However, you should not miss the opportunity to get a little bit more creative with copywriting for your CTAs. It will set you apart from your competition will help to emphasize your brand as well.

Tip: Add an extra disclaimer to your CTA to emphasize trust.

Factor 2: Design

Designing CTAs is an art form in and of itself.

Since they drive your conversion, they should be the most noticeable object on your page. You can use color, typography, and size to achieve that.

A ton of logos, a lot of buttons. The “why” is explained very clearly, but a lot is going on…
…especially when compared to Trello’s above-the-fold area. The CTA has a lot of space and attention here.

The more space a CTA gets, the more it stands out.

A lot of space and a lot of contrast for a big CTA — bound to drive action

Factor 3: Location

We have designed a nice CTA with great copy. But where should it be placed?

According to Neil Patel, CTAs in the upper half of the page are not as effective, because you have to “earn” the user action and build your content up to the CTA at (or near to) the bottom of the page.

I can imagine that depends on the page type, page length, and industry.

However, I would argue that the top of the page (above the fold) and bottom of the page are good places. That is also where users expect to find contact forms or newsletter subscription forms.

In case of doubt, I would recommend testing your CTAs.

CTAs as part of your content strategy

As much as CTAs are designed to guide users, drive action, and generate leads, they don’t exist in a vacuum.

They are an integral part of your content ecosystem and your content strategy.

An editorial style guide is a great place to capture rules for CTAs. That way, you can ensure that they are written and designed consistently across all your channels.

See your CTAs as a way of directly talking to your potential customers. They should reflect your values and be in line with your brand and your overall message architecture.




Stay tuned for a variety of UX-related topics and personal experiences 💬📝

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Beate Öttl

Beate Öttl

✨UX-Designer & Content Strategist with a passion for psychology & productivity 💡🔥

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