users don’t want to “click here.” they want to take an action.

image of Pantene bottles on Wegmans shelves

If you want to be reminded about good web writing and usability, sometimes a trip to the supermarket helps.

While browsing the aisles of Wegmans over the weekend, I saw that Pantene (the official shampoo of TimsHead) was on sale. Being a fan of convenience (and cheapness), I gravitate toward their combined shampoo/conditioner options. You can tell this clearly by a 2-for-1 logo on these offerings. And I thought about that differentiation in comparison to web content.

One of the most outdated, but alas persistent, web phrases is “click here.” It predates when researchers knew anything about how users employ the web and what motivates them. Remember that people don’t read as much as they scan, looking for actions they want to take. They’re scanning for actions or phrases of interest like “apply,” “course information,” “schedule a tour,” “financial aid” or “student organizations.” So a “click here” phrase is superfluous and countervenes their hunt for information. I prefer phrasing desired actions into a contextual link: “Apply to SUNY Oswego,” “Schedule a visit,” “Browse our majors and minors,” etc.

Back to the Wegmans example — could you imagine if, instead of pertinent information, all the bottles simply said “buy me!” Sure, that — like “click here!” — is the desired outcome, but it’s irrelevant to my selection process. And remember it’s less about what you (the web writer, the college, the supermarket) want a user to do; it’s ultimately about what the user wants to do, and cues you can offer to help.

Or consider that moderately successful website known as The Facebook. There’s no “click here!” polluting the content; it’s almost all about driving action. You’ll see phrased links saying “Add as Friend,” “View Photos of Tim,” “What’s on your mind?” Navigation is self-explanatory: Messages, Events, Friends, etc. Nary a “click here!” used — because the phrase is, quite simply, not necessary. Users have moved past being treated like Pavlovian dogs … they know, and look for, the actions they want.

2 Comments

Filed under Web

2 responses to “users don’t want to “click here.” they want to take an action.

  1. Tim! I❤ how you can compare web design to anything! But you are 100% correct.

    The action of buying something is implied. (Although, infomercials are an entirely different story.) You wouldn't be going down the aisle if you weren't looking for something to buy there. Just like high school students wouldn't necessarily be hitting a college webpage if they weren't looking to buy an education.

    People buy something because there is either a need or a desire for it, not because a package told them to.

    It's important for colleges and universities to help create this need and desire, whether it be "2 in 1" or seeing an "Apply" link on a Programs page.

  2. Tim Nekritz

    Thanks, Lane. I love finding analogies. But true: You start with needs, desired actions, etc. and figure out how to meet them. “Click here!” is the equivalent of “call by midnight tonight for this great deal!” even though the ad runs over and over.

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