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I am working on designing a site for a client who wants to create an online music school. The client wants to keep the site very professional with an academic design which would enforce trust. However I was wondering since this school is going to be online ( It does have a physical address which is the address of a famous recording studio in Hollywood and is going to be run by a well known band which has been around for like 30 years ), would a distinctive call to action button make it seem like a commercial venture like other online schools (with no focus on quality) and reduce its impact.

The screenshot of the rough wireframe is given below:

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I looked at Berkeley's online school for music and there is a call to action but it just refers to when classes start. I cannot use this approach since the band members want it to be a self paced study with help on demand as needed.

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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

People are in a hurry to find what they need and get on with their lives. They're scanning your content. Placing a big button to enroll is helping them. On a "behavioral" (see Emotional Design by Don Norman) level this improves your website. Personally, I wouldn't reflect back on a website as unprofessional if they had a big 'Sign Up' or 'Enroll' button. If anything, I would think it's helpful. On the other hand, if I had to read through paragraphs of marketese before I understood what your solution is, I might get frustrated and just leave the website. I would say you're fine.

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Your approach does not seem inappropriate to me. All education sites have calls to action, whether it be to request additional materials, attend an info session, or apply/enroll.

As to your specific use case with async online learning, check out Coursera for an example of a site similar to what you describe:

https://www.coursera.org/course/introastro

They have clear calls to action.

In terms of credibility that will have more to do with the content on the page than the call to action. Take a look at for-profit sites like u of Phoenix to see how they present their content versus a more traditional school.

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I just have one question: could this enroll process be controlled by the university? Actually, I am working on the product needs registrations, but the point is users want this because it can help them to improve their efficiency on registrations when they are ready to face their customers. So if it is a confusion for you, you may discuss with your client more to figure out why they don't need this functionality, maybe the business is more complex than you thought before. Plus, call to action is not as easy as you think currently, at this moment, you just put a button on your website, in future, you need to think about many functionality because of this button.

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Why would your call to action be a bad experience? Why could a user losse trust in the site?

If you have a clear answer that, microcopy could counteract that. Microcopy is what Josgua Porter calls "The fastest way to improve your interface".

http://bokardo.com/archives/writing-microcopy/

You could an extra line of copy on or above your call to action telling the user something like "It's free"/ "Free trial".

Of course you do't build trust with that one button but the surrounding contents are crucial.

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