The death of the call to action in design?

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After writing a post recently about turning site visitors into paying customers, I received the following comment, which I was happy, yet surprised to see:

I think “Call to Action” is overrated and overused nowadays. I’m not a big fan of “Buy it Now!” buttons and In-Your-Face action bubbles. If you need a Call to Action button for a potential customer to be able to find a way to contact you, rethink your website design.

I was surprised to read this comment for a few reasons:

  1. I think any sort of business that doesn’t call their customer to action is missing out on serious business.
  2. I’m not sure how clients are getting in contact with you if you don’t have a call to action.

So I did a little digging.

A visited the web site of the GDB reader who left this comment.

And guess what…

They had a call-to-action on their site as well.

What the?

For a minute, I was really confused.

I mean right there, as clear as day, at the top of their web site was a link that said “Get in touch.”

If that’s not a call to action, I don’t know what is.

Then it hit me

It was in that moment that I realized: calls to action aren’t dead.

They’re just misunderstood.

And they’re vital to the growth of your business.

Part of what this commenter said was true:

In-you-face action bubbles and huge “buy it now” buttons aren’t a good fit for everyone.

But that’s not the only way to call your customer to action.

The real “call to action”

I’m a marketer.

I’m also a designer.

So when I design things, I like to think about how the project will be used as a marketing tool.

So I’m always thinking about ways to get the customer to act.

And just like, over the years, marketers have been misunderstood to be salesy, sleezy, in-your-face jerk-wads, so too the call-to-action has gotten a bad rep.

A real call to action doesn’t require a CSS3 button or a large red bubble with a price slash!

A real call to action is simply that: an invitation to your customers to act.

Nice and simple

And I agree with this commenter.

It can be nice and simple.

But you have to have something that encourages your potential clients to convert into true clients.

And if you have no call to action at all, you’re really doing yourself a disservice.

Calls to action come in all shapes and sizes

In the case of this commenter, their call to action was just a short three-word phrase placed in the navigation bar: “get in touch.”

For others of us, it may be a button, it may be a starburst, it may be a youtube video embedded on the page encouraging a customer to buy.

Whatever it is, it has to encourage them to take the next step.

Without that, you’re toast.

What’s your call to action?

So the call to action isn’t dead. It’s needed. Desperately.

And if you want your business to succeed, you’ll take my advice and make sure you’ve got one.

If you’ve got a call to action on your site (or you’ve got one dreamed up in your head) tell me what it is by leaving a comment on this post (see my little call to action there? *wink)

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee


  1. Call to action is a must! One every portfolio page I have one that says something along the lines of “Sweet Flyers Man!” and the call to action button right below it says “I want one”.

    Thanks for this post!

  2. I agree with Preston, a call to action can be a “read more” button, “Request a quote” button, “Let’s get started” button, a “sign up” button, etc… It all depends on your industry and what you need your customers to do.

    For example, a “read more” button can be used for lengthy content that summarized on a page, such as a blog post.

    People should not be afraid of use call to action buttons on their website.

    It’s a way to engage and capture your visitors attention.

    Don’t look at it as a negative, but a positive. =)

    -Siedah M.

  3. Call to actions are vital to the selling process. If you don’t use it, nothing will happen. Potential clients need this mostly unconscious “hint” to take that extra step. I compare it to “closing the deal” in a face to face sales talk. I totally agree that they don’t have to be as “in your face” like some companies tend to use them. But then again it could fit your companies identity to do so. So I think in the end it’s up to you to choose how to use them.
    Regards, Rinni

  4. Thanks for the post, Preston!
    I think definitions of “Call to Action” and “Contact” have been blended nowadays. To me, “Call to Action” is a button, link, pop up etc etc that pushes the potential client to “Act” – sign up to get a free ebook, create a profile, etc. While you have a valid point about the ways clients can contact you, I wouldn’t consider a “Get in Touch” link to be a “Call to Action” – pushing a visitor to interact more. As Rinni said, Call to Actions are a part of selling process, while “Get in Touch” is simply a means of contacting you.

    Thanks again, great posts!

  5. Good article. As designers, we are finding ourselves balancing between teasing out a ‘call to action’ out of slaps of text our clients supply and having too many, conflicting calls to action. Too many confuse the web visitor and dilute the essence of the site. Clarity is paramount in design. A well designed ‘call to action’ is gold, part of our job is to sift through the jumble to reveal the gems.

  6. Hi Preston,
    I really agree with you. Call to actions is very important thing for website business.If web designer does not use this, then viewer or seller does not understand anything.
    For example, after given my comment to this post, if I would not find “SUBMIT COMMENT”, then how could I submit my view to this post.

    From here, we can understand the importance call to actions.

  7. Joan M. Santos says:

    Hi Preston, as always, your tips are more than welcome. We all appreciate what you do.

    Personally, yes, I agree with you. If you remove this “call to action” button you are removing one of the most valuable tools in your website. You may find a different way to announce to your client that you are there for them, when they need you, not necessarily the old fashioned buttons. It has no logical sense if it isn’t there.
    Otherwise, your website (in our case, designers) will be just a reference page for people (not clients anymore) to get ideas from our design portfolio… in other words, they will steal our work and share it with they new designer.

    It might be a possibility.
    What do you think about it?

    Best regards to everyone. And thanks for this post.

  8. Couldn’t agree more! I have about 3-4 CTA links on my page:

    You want to guide the potential client to your portfolio and contact page for sure. Those CTA links/buttons serve as a quick way for them to possibly hire you.


  1. […] The death of the call to action in design? | Graphic Design Blender …By Preston D LeeThe death of the call to action in design? Posted January 30th, 2013 by Preston D Lee & filed under Design Process. call to action graphic design blender. After writing a post recently about turning site visitors into paying customers, I received …Graphic Design Blender […]

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