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For more readability, appeal and understanding, should a tagline for a site homepage say:

"Do this to obtain that" or "Obtain that by doing this" ?

In other words, which one should be first: goal or action?

The tagline would appear right below a tool's name/logo. This tool requires a mechanic action from the person to obtain a result/satisfaction. The goal is something everybody does on a daily basis. We are offering a new way of doing it.

We want the reader to understand:

  • what the tool does
  • the required action to make it work

This is not a CTA, or instruction. It is just a tagline located below the logo on the homepage of a site dedicated to this tool.

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Can you give some detail on what the action and the rewards are? I think that will affect which may perform better. You may also just want to split test both and see which works better for your audience. – Shaun Aug 9 '12 at 0:24
Sure! I added some context. Hope this is helpful. – Cécile Boucheron Aug 9 '12 at 3:54

I am looking at it terms of putting it as a call to action and if you look at some of the best practices for call to action events, they are as follows :

  1. Convey a sense of urgency
  2. Place it in a distinguished area
  3. Tell users that taking action is easy
  4. Tell users what to expect

From your tagline perspective, I would say points 1,3 and 4 are significant for you with regards to structuring the tagline. Taking all the points into consideration, there seems a definite emphasis on making the user perform the action first and mentioning the goal later.Here are some examples for reference

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Call to action best practices

Call to action best practices and examples

The secret life of a tagline

Dont leave the tagline behind

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Thanks for this very helpful answer, although this would not be a CTA, but a tagline below the tool's name or logo, on top of a homepage site dedicated to this tool. – Cécile Boucheron Aug 9 '12 at 15:44

I would choose the second ("Obtain that by doing this").

The reason as I see it is that people would rather get rewarded for an action then having to do something to obtain something.

Gets even more powerful with "Get a free Mp3 player when buying a computer" instead of "Buy a computer and get a free mp3 player"

But I guess different people with different background could decode it different.

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Your clarification puts it in a little different context then I imagined. In this case I agree with @mervinj – Hoshts Aug 9 '12 at 6:19

I often see both forms. I believe this may be a subjective question.

"Sign up to receive special offers!"

"Want special offers? Then sign up!"

Both are clear and concise. I should note that leading with the benefit has often been mentioned as superior, and I have witnessed that being put in to practice on sites with heavy UX optimization. Amazon is a good example. Note that most of their advertising mentions the goal first:

  • Textbooks: Rent, Buy, or Sell
  • Kindle e-Readers from $79 >Shop Now

There are fewer cases of the reverse, and not in headline level text.

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If reward is what the users want they probably will be scanning the page for it so if the word appears first it will be more discoverable. Also if you decide to add more "rewards" the strings will start with the word that has more value vs. repeated words Do this to get A, Do this to get B.

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You stated that...

We want the reader to understand:

  • what the tool does
  • the required action to make it work

The fact is, it doesn't matter which one would be first, putting a goal with the action together makes it understandable.

The order matters in relation to something else, consider two cases:

  • user is searching for a particular effect, she knows what she wants to do
  • user is undecided and you want to convince her to take an action

In the first case readability and findability suggests putting first what user is in pursuit of. For example, if she is here to wash her car and is searching for a tool, you can put it like: "Wash your car by using this pressurized shower".

In the second case, in order to successfully accomplish a call to an action you must cross the users' barrier of hesitation. So you need to put the benefit first. "Have a clean and fragrant car by using this pressurized shower".

It's hard to generalize, but one can see some patterns. In software, first case is often seen in product that is already purchased and/or used in a daily manner, while the second case is often seen in the products with in-game or in-system payments.

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It depends if you're writing for a button or an instruction.

The typical practice in technical writing is to put the goal first, then the action. That's so that a user can assess the value of performing the instruction, especially when instructions are presented in scannable, ordered lists.

On the other hand, buttons need to reveal that they perform actions in order to be interpreted as buttons. As such, most buttons on the web use the second person imperative. A note, though - never make the imperative verb 'click'. Users already know that buttons can be clicked. Instead, make the verb somehow suggest the value of the action, and its alignment to their goals.

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It depends on your objective, many good experiences enable the user to access multiple entry points for the same objective through different interactions and content.

Objective: Purchase transaction

  • Served advertising > Get your ‘thingy widget’ for $4.99 > link straight to purchase option > label ‘buy now’

  • In context information > When I bought ‘thingy widget’ I used it for…. > link to product description > label ‘get benefits of’ ‘thingy widget’ > label ‘order now’

  • In site > Thingy Widget, the new blah, blah, blah > link to product or add to basket

  • Review > I used ‘thingy widget’ but it did not work until….. > link to site
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