Sonia Simone's Copyblogger post
yesterday made the point that users will have an easier time getting from Point A to Point B if they're provided clear directives. It's why, as she notes, the ole "click here" method still works better in eliciting action than passive, descriptive text that just happens to be linked. She says,
Decide what action you want readers to take. Ask them to take that action. Ask them clearly, succinctly and unmistakably. Put at least one unambiguous call to action into every piece of persuasive writing you create. You’ll see results.
One thing I'd add is that it's not enough just to write clearly with smart, action-oriented (read: verb laden) copy. I mean, I get mega frustrated when I come to a page with fourteen different next steps, each holding as much weight as the last, and each seemingly no closer to my target. I couldn't be bothered to read all the copy someone may have painstakingly crafted for those spots; instead, I'm looking for a way out. And it's probably the X my browser window loyally provides. We work tirelessly with clients to help define user paths up-front; THEN, we reel in those users with punchy content, whether in a gorgeous red callout or an email blast or a Flash intro. What's great about the web (what isn't?!) is its relative transparency thanks to tools like Google Analytics, so we can always nimbly modify the paths that aren't leading to conversions by learning from the ones that are. Ultimately, it's better to make some assumptions that can be corrected later about what users want rather than slapping seventeen callouts in the right sidebar and hoping one sticks. And when it comes to getting from Point A to Point B, who wants to find a fork -- or seven
-- in the road? I mean, less is more, isn't it?