Call to Action: If you don’t ask for the sale, you’ll never get it.

buy now ask for the sale call to action

I’ve been designing and developing website for many years. I have built static portfolio sites all the way up to completely customized content management and ecommerce systems. Over the years I have learned a lot of lessons, some easy, some by trial and some lessons came the hard way with errors. One thing I can say definitively and universally:

If you don’t ask for the sale,
you will never get it.”

What does that mean? You have to have a good call to action (CTA). A CTA can be a button (like the BUY NOW above), it can be banner ad and it can just be text or text link. In all cases and no matter which method you use, a CTA is meant to help a visitor understand what you want them to do. The simplest example is an ecommerce website. At some point you want the visitor to purchase your product. Hopefully you’ve clearly defined the purpose or goal of your website (that helps). Hopefully you’ve done all the search engine optimization to get good quality traffic to your website. And hopefully you’ve have used best practice design/navigation/search to help funnel those visitors to the products and services that they have need for. So assuming all of those things and a customer makes it to the page they need to be on, a good CTA gets all up in their face and say’s “right here dummy, click me”. You shouldn’t hide the “buy now” or “add to cart” button. Use a bold color that sharply contrasts the color palette that you use on the website. You don’t have to use red or orange. If your sites primary color is one of those, it wouldn’t standout at all. Use text that is clear and binary, “buy now” and “purchase” for example. You can’t get more clear than those.

Ecommerce is not the only time you might need a good CTA. Every website should have a goal. In many cases the end goal or conversion is not an ecommerce transaction. Many times the purpose of a website is to encourage visitors to download something. Maybe you just want them to complete a form or sign up for a newsletter. Sometimes you just want to encourage visitors to call for more information. In all of these situations, you need a CTA. “Sign up for our Newsletter”, “Download Specification Sheet”, “Contact Us for More Information” or “Register to Win” are all great examples. If this is the purpose of your website, you need to drive the visitors eye to them. Again, using contrasting colors, bold and clear text and in the case of banner adds animation all accomplish that purpose.

Probably don’t use images like this though.Moving-picture-blue-down-arrow-animated-gif

If you have any question about CTA or agree or disagree with me, let me hear from you in the comments below.

Latest technology isn't always the right technology

Above is what I see now when I try to read an article on one of my favorite websites, Lifehacker. Lifehacker is an awesome resource, providing articles on all sorts of ways to improve your daily existence. I used to read almost every article on Lifehacker in Google Reader via RSS. Not so much anymore.

A little while back something changed. I am only speculating here so if I wrong feel free to correct me. It seems to me that Lifehacker’s parent company (Gawker) changed the way files were hosted. For example, generally website images are stored on the same domain as the website. If the domain is http://www.lifehacker.com, then the images might be stored at http://www.lifehacker.com/images/. A quick peek at their code shows me that their images are now being hosted at img.gawkerassests.com/img/. Normally, this might not be a big deal, after all Gawker and Lifehacker are the same company. The problem for me is, our corporate firewall software doesn’t like it, so the software blocks any files coming from that domain (images, css scripts, javascripts) and the results are what you see in the image above.

So why the the title? The experience got me thinking. In this case, Lifehacker has lost a reader because they changed to a “new”, “better” way of doing things. Many of us in web development and information technologies scramble to implement the latest thing. Case in point, Facebook’s mobile experiment, developing with HTML5 instead of a native application. Sometimes we should make sure what we are doing is best for our customers/visitors and not so we can play with the newest toys. JS.

I can still read Lifehacker on my phone, tablet and laptop, but I don’t look at it near as much as I used to.

Update: As of noon on 10/08/2012, whatever was broken with Lifehacker is now fixed. Yahhh!. Crazy that it is was broken for months before I wrote this.