Using buttons as CTAs (Calls to Action) vs. Text Links

3 Jun 2010 - 10:20am
2117 reads
Jennifer Wolfgang

In our work, everyone (stakeholders) wants to use a graphical button for their CTAs, often asking for multiple such buttons on a single page. The notion is that these will drive a higher conversion rate... ON THOSE links. (These are not form submits, remember.) A proof of concept was done late last year to test the effectiveness of buttons vs. links on a particular page. Here was the scenario:

Top segment homepage, containing the following...

  • Hero banner with graphical button on it, located at the top of page directly below navigation
  • New row below hero, full width, with another graphical button for yet another bit of content
  • OPTION A:  3rd row, split into 3 blocks (columns), each with a blurb of content, and a text link for each. (You end up seeing just the 2 buttons - hero and 2nd row)
  • OPTION B: 3rd row, split into 3 blocks (columns), each with a blurb of content, and a BUTTON for each. (You end up seeing 5 buttons on the page)


They were testing the hypotheses that the Option B (total of 5 buttons) would be more distracting than using text links. The test showed a higher click-through on Option B, to each of those lower-level items. Thus, our analytics team came back with the resounding - and publicly pronoucnced - "Buttons are obviously not distracting" conclusion; to which I responded: I might argue they obviously WERE distracting because that 3rd row of cotnent is of lower importance in the hierarchy than the banner and/or the 2nd row. I argued that we didn't track what users did after clicking on those lower-level CTA buttons in order to identify whether the visitor in fact got any benefit out of it. Furthermore, and stepping back a level, what was the action we wanted people to take more often (hero? smaller ctas?).

All this to ask:

  1. What is your thinking on the topic of using graphical buttons in lieu of text links?
  2. Is there even a need to delineate any longer between form / submit  actions (buttons) and the action of a text link? (I feel I'm struggling with my old-school notions, yet I want to find research that discusses the options)
  3. Any other considerations I should explore?


I've attached the recent item that came through: a video 'wrapper' that has 4 buttons at the bottom. We are trying to standardize our video player space, and as I stated earlier, everyone wants buttons.

Thank you all in advance,


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