The Ultimate Guide To Writing Buttons

When writing the text for buttons on your homepage, do it well.

On a site with half-decent traffic, tens of thousands of visitors will be lost or held, according to how well your homepage buttons draw them deeper into the site.

Does this mean that every button should be as compelling as a print ad headline? Should every button tease, excite, thrill and delight?

I don’t think so.

I think that the writing of many key homepage buttons has become as simple as writing road signs. Join me on the road for a moment.

We’re driving along and approaching an intersection. There is a sign. It says STOP. So we stop. At the next intersection there is a sign that says DON’T GO. At the next it says APPLY BRAKE. At the next it says HALT.

What a mess. Chaos. If there were this many different versions of the same message on our road signs, we’d have many more accidents.

In other words, if you have a consistent message, use the words that people are most familiar with. On the road, this means that a Stop sign should always read Stop. On a web site it makes sense to follow the same rules.

For instance, on sites that sell stuff there is always a button that takes the shopper to their ‘virtual shopping cart’ — the place where they list their purchases before reaching the checkout screen.

If you look at a few sites, you’ll notice that different people have attached different ‘signs’ to this link. Here are some of them:

Shopping Cart. Cart. Your Cart. Your Basket. My Basket. Shopping Basket. Shopping Box. Shopping Bag.

Or take a look at some of the ways that web sites try to link their visitors to their ‘help’ or ‘customer service’ areas.

FAQ. Help. Customer Service. Customer Care. Site Help. Support.

It is confusing for visitors to have so many different terms being used to describe the same functions.

Confuse people at these particular intersections and our virtual drivers will quickly slip into virtual reverse and virtually drive off somewhere else.

So where can a person go to find the definitive versions of these important link descriptions? In other words, who has written the traffic signs of the Internet?

Based on volume and exposure, I’d hazard a guess at

Based on the model we’d use an icon to show our shopping cart and call it a ‘Shopping Cart.’

When it comes to that Help and Customer Support area, we’d call it ‘Help.’

The info we keep about our customers would be shown in an area called, ‘Your Account.’

Makes sense to me.

Does this mean that every button and link on your homepage should be directly derivative of No. Just use the main signposts that they use.

For example, signpost your help area with the word ‘Help.’ Below that, you can always add sublinks that recognize the differences within your site.


  • How to Buy Stuff
  • How to Return Stuff
  • How to Reach Us

And while I think that has become the default creator of e-commerce road signs, if your site reaches a very specialized audience, check out what signs the biggest gorilla in your area is using.

But don’t try to recreate all these road signs just for the hell of it.

Rewriting signs may make you look good and feel important, but it will likely confuse the heck out of everyone else.

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