Most websites are designed to direct you towards a “call to action.” This may be a call to purchase, contact, subscribe, tweet, or download. “Click here” and your wildest fantasies will come true…
This is a very important component to brick and mortar businesses on the Web that need to quantitatively measure the number of contacts, revenue generated from each contact, and cost to acquire these contacts. For a digital downloads site, it’s an even cleaner and more direct route. Set up an Google Adwords campaign, measure the number of exposures, cost-per-click, clickthroughs, and the number of downloads or purchases. It’s a direct funnel with little wavering and clearly defined holes*.
The analytics funnel can be measured simply with numbers in, numbers out, and diversions along the way. 0-100% optimized.
What about blogs, online books in HTML, magazines, or art exhibitions and galleries? An argument can be made that for these types of sites, the goal is to get the user to engage more than it is to get the user to click, buy, or contact. If you are using a photo montage, slideshow, or writing thought-provoking blog articles, is your goal to ship the user away via a click, or to get her engaged, talking about your story, and believing in your vision? A “call to engage” is what this site needs. Design to lead the user into your story, captivate her with your photos, and rid the landscape of peripheral “calls to action.”
Most news sites follow a three or four-column approach to their website. This can be understood, as the news business model is tied around advertising. But, wouldn’t it be nice if you read your articles with big type, restful whitespace, and engaging pictures? Many follow the recipe, but forget that the signal gets lost for the noise when your reading one amongst four columns, and the highest contrasting elements on the page are the banner ads, trying to get you to click away and buy a cell phone.
The next time you redesign, consider if it would be most appropriate to have numerous and loud calls to action, or provoking and relaxing calls to engage.
*The attrition and loss of users along the way due to checkout abandonment, site bounces, or click-aways.