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At the top of this page are:

  1. "Ask Question"
  2. "Questions", "Tags", "Users", "Badges", "Answers"

(1) directly proposes an action "Ask a Question!" (using imperative language). From what I've read Googling a "Call To Action", the Internet seems to agree that this kind of thing is a "call to action" in every example.

In contrast, the elements (2) do not propose an action, but only insofar as they don't do so explicitly in the text, which only suggests what can be found after clicking the element. They do however clearly invite the user to perform the following actions "View Questions", "View Tags", "View Users", "View Badges", "View Answers". Most of my reading suggests that (2) is not a "Call To Action".

However, the difference to me seems to be splitting hairs since both sets of elements do in fact call the user to perform an action.

So, what is, and what's the importance of a "Call To Action" in UX terms? Is it just terminology fluff of is there some good reasoning behind the use of the terms? (e.g. imperative language in a "Call To Action" is known to increase engagement and is supported by research)?

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    I think you answered your own question. Normally the Call to Action is your end-goal (Stack Exchange wants users to ask questions... without questions this site doesn't exist). So a call to action is an imperative statement that guides the user to the sites end-goal ("Buy Now!") – andyjv Jun 13 '14 at 13:21
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A call to action is to persuade the visitor to convert. Whatever convert is for each business, website or person can differ vastly though of course.

Yes, everything else on a website is an action. But a call to action should be used with conversions in mind which is why they are so closely associated with UX and design ensuring they stand out, are effective, not annoying etc etc.

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Also referred to as the CTA - the most prominent, imperative statement on a web page. Interactivity can be added to facilitate the action. For optimum results, the total CTAs allowed per page: 1

In his book, The Big Red Fez, Seth Godin stresses the call to action as the primary means for the experience of a website, explaining that you should have the final destination in mind, and the call to action and all other elements are employed to draw the user closer toward it on every page. He likens this process to getting a chimp into a cage by holding out a banana for it to chase.

Walt Disney used similar lures in designing Disneyland, referring to large, alluring structures like Sleeping Beauty's Castle as "Big Weenies" – in reference to a hot dog you would hold out to a dog to get it to do something. The Big Weenie can be seen from far away, and so it draws people toward it, much like a roadside attraction. In the case of the Castle at Disneyland, its purpose is to get people deep into the theme park.

Indeed, "conversion" is a popular destination or goal for a product – but it could be anything.

So know your destination, and use a call to action to drive your users toward it.

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A call-to-action is a marketing term. If a company has a flier, a poster, a landing-page, an email campaign, etc... Then the "call-to-action" is the one thing the company want the reader to do: download an app, apply for membership, watch a commercial, buy something, whatever.

In designing websites of a commercial nature, it is important to know what the call-to-action is, so that you can give it appropriate emphasis.

  • Yes, the CTA is a marketing thing. In recent years, though, I've tried to define CTAs as UX things. That is, instead of steering the user toward the business's goal, they can be used to clarify the next step toward the user's goal. – Ken Mohnkern Jun 13 '14 at 20:39

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