I am trying to figure out, especially for returning users, the value of pointing out a way to add input to a site. Facebook and Google+ both have placeholder text and placement of the input for status up top, where some sites are more bold and call out the input with a h1 tag asking the user something like "What's on your mind?"

Here's two examples of my own. Which one do you find more effective?

More subtle call to action based on placement: Subtle image

More obvious call to action: Obvious image

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    Whilst on topic of mobile below: having zoomed in, the two entry fields have the 'I'm drinking' button underneath them so I can see it on the same screen. On your first example, it's out of view and I have to scroll right to see it. Jul 17, 2011 at 22:49
  • The second. Life becomes easier when people give you clear instructions.
    – peterchen
    Jul 18, 2011 at 7:01

4 Answers 4


Twitter originally started with the "what are you doing?" moniker attached to its input form to inspire users to post something. Then once Twitter became infamous for people literally posting what they were doing, the copy was changed to "what's going on?", reflecting Twitter's intent to be a platform for up-to-the-minute news and goings-on. So copy in this situation is important because it signals intent and because it allows you to inspire users to behave a certain way.

However, other services have clearly experimented with the format of such copy. Your "subtle" example is an example of labels placed inside the actual input fields. There are likely various reasons services do this, such as optimising for space, or perhaps reacting to results from eyetracking studies.

And studies are probably the best place for you to start to figure out which approach is better. I suggest you try both approaches using an A/B test and see what kind of results your designs inspire. If one of them inspires the wrong behaviour, then you know which design is the one you want to pursue.


This type of site benefits from users actually filling information in. The more drinks entered by users the more the site is of interest, and the more it grows.

Therefore, even for returning users, isn't the primary aim to get users to enter what they are drinking?

Just because a returning user knows what to do does not make your call to action any less useful. In fact, in a sense it's even more necessary. Returning users might be coming back with the intention to just see 'what's going on', therefore, a call to action like the second one says to the user: 'Hey - before you look at the rest of the page, you might want to do this.' It gives you that little extra kick towards fulfilling your primary aim of getting users actually putting information in rather than just browsing.

Additionally, the position of the entry fields on the page is where users are very used to finding a search box. The large call to action that you have in option 2 clarifies what this area is about and makes it clear that it is not a search area, but the primary interaction area - in a similar vein to Twitter's "What's happening?".

Of course, as Rahul says, you might want to try both and see just what effect the second option has to your users on your site (and let us know!?)

Finally it's good to make the call to action clear for mobile users which might well comprise a good section of your target users? - For example here's a good approximation of how it looks in my blackberry with a 320px wide screen. (Using Opera Mini)

For mobile, it is necessary to be very obvious because screen real estate is a premium and the message needs to be clear, obvious and readable. The less obvious option using the call to action via light grey text inside the text field is not sufficient for mobile.

On mobile, I can at least clearly see which area of the screen to zoom in on, because 'What are you drinking' is the most easily legible part of the screen.

enter image description here

  • While this is useful feedback, it's not actually an answer to his question. I recommend converting a summary of your answer to a comment if you want to let him know your thoughts.
    – Rahul
    Jul 17, 2011 at 20:45
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    I disagree - the question was: 'How necessary is it to point out your call to action so obviously?'. I'm making the point that for mobile users, it is necessary to be very obvious because screen real estate is a premium and the message needs to be clear, obvious and readable. The OP's less obvious option using the call to action via light grey text inside the text field is not sufficient for mobile. Jul 17, 2011 at 22:45
  • That's true, but if you read the body of the question, the context is that he has two options and is trying to figure out which works as a sharing UI - specifically whether the inclusion of direct copy instructing the user what to do is better than not doing so. Your answer doesn't really discuss any of that. Hence the suggestion to change it to a comment - it's absolutely valuable feedback, just not a direct answer.
    – Rahul
    Jul 17, 2011 at 22:49
  • However, I have moved my comment about the button positioning into a comment, and made my point clearer. Jul 17, 2011 at 22:51

Very necessary - unless you're creating a website that will have close nit set of users, and people are going have an understanding of how the site works in detail before they start to input data - you should make the CTAs simple, clear with no ambiguity.

It's difficult to tell using the examples given what exactly the CTA is. Is the user Adding a new beer the site, are they searching through a list of existing beers within your system (autocomplete)? - I'm guessing the first, in which case the label "Add a Beer" without the title doesn't really work for me - something like (including the title) :

What are you drinking?
[Beer name] [Brewery name] (Record this Drink)

Which has a clearer call to action - I know exactly what I'm expected to do without having to think too much.

I'm also a big fan of Rahul's suggestion of the A/B testing - get a couple versions that you're happy with and let you users tell you which one they prefer to use, but make sure you differentiate between new and existing users.


Two additional points to consider in making this choice:

1. Is this the main call to action (CTA)? In other words, is this the action you want to encourage users to do above aught else? In that case, by all means use the big beautiful display type to ask "What are you drinking?" It certainly pulls the eye and invites action. But if this is a secondary action, and instead you want users to read content, invite friends, buy stuff, or whatever else first, then I would not use the big font and CTA.

2. Is you site currently aimed mostly at new users, who you want to teach how to do something like post their drinking status? Or is this a site for mostly returning and veteran users who know what to do and don't need big call-outs? User behavior changes over time, so how you display the site to brand new users and returning users could vary, and also vary with the age of your app.

Finally, to answer the real question here, Summer Solstice from Anderson Valley Brewing Company :)

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