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How to Write Good CTAs

It's the standard joke: UX Writers sitting in a room, agonising over whether the button should say Buy or Buy Now.

I'm all for poking fun at ourselves and our profession, but CTA (call-to-action) copy can have a big impact on metrics like sales, retainment and engagement. Google, for example, changed the CTA on their hotel page from Book a room to Check availability and saw a 17% growth in clicks. (Read more about that change here.)

There are a few reasons why this and other changes make such a difference, and following these guidelines can make your own CTAs shine.


Be clear about commitment

Let's stick with Google's example for a bit. One of the reasons Check availability was more successful is because users weren't ready to book yet; they just wanted to learn more about the hotel before deciding. Users wouldn't select Book a room because they didn't feel convinced of the commitment.

CTAs should be clear about what the next page or consequence will be. There's nothing wrong with a commitment-heavy CTA if that's what the user is looking for: I want to know, for instance, that a purchase will go through on a specific click.

Start with a verb

CTAs are all about action. It's literally what the A stands for. The user selects a button because they want to do something, or have something happen.

This doesn't mean we should use fancy, over the top verbs. Buy works better than Purchase, Save better than Conserve (obviously, right?). Don't overthink it.

Slack lays out what the next step of setup will be.

Include the noun

Directly tied to the above advice, CTAs should be clear about what the action applies to. A button that says Save may be okay, but will the user know what's being saved? Depends on the context. It's great to include the noun for clarity: Save contact, for example.

This brings up another UX Writing principle: consistency. Verbs and nouns should be the same throughout a flow; don't call people contacts on one screen and people within the CTA.

Include benefits

CTAs don't exist in a vacuum. There's always context on the same page: titles, subtitles, forms, illustrations, etc. If your goal is to have a user select a specific CTA, be clear about why they should perform that action. What will they get out of it? How will it help them achieve their goal or make their life easier?

Don't tell users why the CTA will benefit you or your company; explain how it will support them. And remember: users don't usually care about the details of how a feature works. They just want to know why they should care.

Notion uses its subtitles to explain why the CTA is worth selecting.

To sum up...

Yeah, I've sat through long meetings to debate whether a CTA should include the word the. No one's saying that doesn't sound ridiculous. But research a bit on the difference good CTAs can make to your UI, and you'll start caring, too.


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