Tips for better button copy
The words we see on buttons are as important as their appearance. Using the wrong button copy can cause people to feel confused, need more time to complete tasks or abandon your site or app. While there is a lot of guidance available on button styling, this article will focus solely on making your button copy more effective.
The use of verbs is good practice in call-to-action (CTA) buttons. Make it easy for users to click the button. Don’t make them think. Using verbs in CTAs creates actionable instructions that lets them know exactly what they’ll be doing.
In the above example, the words, “Discard” and “Save” make it clear to the user what will happen. The options “Yes” and “No” might mean they need to re-read the text above the buttons before making a decision. Avoid this kind of friction by providing clarity.
Adding a noun or an adverb (or both) to a verb in a button can enhance the clarity and turn the verb into a clear instruction.
The above approach works because the combination of relevant verbs and nouns helps the user to understand what will happen when they click the button. This helps with their decision-making process.
Using verbs to encourage action only works if it is task-specific though. A common mistake is to have the button copy refer to the interface instead of the task. For example, countless buttons on the web read “Click here”. This is instructing the user to click a button and does not communicate any value or tell them what clicking the button will do. Another mistake is the “Submit” button. “Submit” describes what the system will do, not what the user will do.
For other types of buttons that are focused on helping the user to navigate through multiple steps of a flow (rather than taking an “action”), it is common to see non-verbs used, such as “Next” and “Back”.
Using the words “You”, “Your”, “Me” or “My” in buttons makes it more about the user and not about the business. Possessive pronouns in buttons, like “My Account” create a sense of ownership. This relates to the “Endowment Effect”, which means when people feel like something belongs to them, they will tend to overvalue it and want to keep it.
User profiles and profile photos reinforce that sense of ownership.
Keep your approach to button copy consistent. Users may encounter many buttons while interacting with your product. As they become familiar with things like tone of voice, case and structure, a consistent approach will make their experience more positive and seamless.
Consider the number of words that should be in different types of buttons. Think about whether the text should be upper case, sentence case etc. Build all of this into your design system. Also, align the tone of voice in buttons to the overall content strategy.
Nielsen Norman Group talks about internal and external consistency.
Internal consistency being the consistency within a product or a family of products, either within a single application or across a family or suite of applications.
So if your users have touchpoints across more than one of your products, ensure consistency across these products.
External consistency refers to established conventions in an industry or on the web at large, beyond one application or family of applications.
This means that people spend more of their time using apps or websites other than yours and they bring their expectations from these products to yours. So in the case of button copy, follow conventions that they will be familiar with, such as "Create account", "Add to cart" and "Learn more".
CTAs and Surrounding Text
The text surrounding a CTA can play an important role in persuading the user to click. This can be particularly useful, for example in banners for free trials and interfaces where the user may not have clicked before.
Again, demonstrate the value that the user will gain in the text closest to the button. An impressive heading and sub-heading can draw the user down to the CTA.
The Spotify example above cleverly uses a couple of cognitive biases to persuade the potential customer to sign up:
- With the word “Free” in the CTA, they are using the “Zero price effect”. This means that people are disproportionately interested in something that is free, compared with something that costs even a small amount. That's why free trials are so popular. Adding the word “Free” to a CTA or beside the CTA has been proven to significantly increase conversion rates.
- The copy above the button that states “No credit card needed” uses the “Zero risk bias”. This means that we generally feel more confident about doing something if we have complete certainty that there’s absolutely no risk involved. In this example, even though a free trial is appealing, adding the detail that you don’t need to enter card details at this stage makes it even more tempting to sign up for the trial.
This type of action means a user needs to delete an item, cancel a service etc. Designers need to pay particular attention to the button copy in these scenarios.
With regular actions, there is often a “Cancel” option, serving as an alternative to say, a “Save” option. The word “Cancel” might become confusing when trying to carry out a destructive action.
A combination of colour and careful choice of words can help to remove the ambiguity of having an option to cancel the cancellation. A colour different to the primary colour can signify that the action is destructive. The copy needs to clarify what the options are.
In this example, the copy directly above the buttons plays an important role, as indicated in the previous section. It describes what will happen when the user completes the action.
The words you choose for the buttons on your app or website can make or break the usability of the product and in turn your conversions and business goals. When it comes to content strategy, they are often an afterthought, but they are also very often the final step in a user’s journey to buying something or signing up for a service. Providing clarity and consistency will help to make the best possible experience for your users.
If you need help reinventing your digital presence or if you want to optimise your content, contact us today.