Friction in all its forms is the equivalent of discomfort. It’s the chafing of an ill-placed strap during a workout or the dread that wells up in your gut after hitting send on a strongly worded email.
I never considered of it in terms of marketing, but it came up in a session about lead generation at WordCamp Kent this past weekend.
Bill Rice of Kaleidico, a Michigan-based marketing and design agency, was both generous and gripping in relaying his ideas on user-minded websites and effective calls to action.
In writing copy, calls to action are among the top sources of friction — for the writer and the reader. Think about the phrase. A call to action sounds pretty brash, does it not? It brings to mind cattle prods and crowds of agitated people throwing their fists into the air.
Anything that screams, “Make a decision now!” or “Do something for no particular reason!” will leave people scurrying for their security blankets.
The reader just wants to get what they came for and the writer wants to keep the reader moving through whatever journey they’ve laid out. Friction! 😖
Smart companies have picked up on this and are starting to swap in CTAs that don’t make the user feel like they are being coerced by a 4th grade bully.
For instance, we used to see a lot of the commanding “Buy now” buttons, but now e-commerce sites have opted for the more civilized and inviting, “Place your order.”
Back to Bill. He recommended including calls to action in every area of a website, whether it be the homepage, the about page, or a blog post. A site sprinkled with calls to action doesn’t sound very frictionless to me, but then he revealed a few examples.
In place of the usual “Call Us”, he had “Schedule an Appointment.” Instead of the generic, “Contact Us” at the bottom or in the sidebar of a blog post, he had “Ask a Question” buttons situated within the post itself. It felt like it belonged there, like a speaker pausing politely to ask her audience if they had any questions so far.
When talking face-to-face with someone, even in a professional setting, I’d personally never suggest someone “Contact Us.”
Who is Us? That is one point of friction.
What should I contact you about? That is another point.
It is not encouraging the reader to reach out, because “contact” is such a sterile, vague word for communication.
We’ve relied on “Contact Us” for so long without considering the friction it creates in the readers’ mind.
What are the reasons people contact you? How can you reassure them that they are in control of their experience and that they are strong independent users who don’t need to contact you but are perfectly welcome to ask questions?
I came away from Bill’s session with a new appreciation for calls to action. Done right, they can be empowering instead of bossy. They have the potential to leave readers or users feeling rewarded, rather than regretful.
Reducing friction through CTAs means making each individual step feel natural and non-threatening. Marketing isn’t LIKE reducing friction. It IS reducing friction.
PS – Shout out to all the attendees, volunteers and the rest of the organizing team for WordCamp Kent 2019. The WordPress community is easy to fall in love with — these people are smart, funny, and unbelievably generous with their time and knowledge. The weekend was a blast!
The featured image for this post is from Lisa Walton on Unsplash.