Creating Effective Calls to Action

In our planning for the web training, we told you all about the core model; web pages that direct users to business goals or further information.

The paths through these pages can be highlighted as calls to action (CTA). Today, I’m going to talk about them in a little more detail.

Transactional vs navigational

There are two types of CTA, transactional and navigational.

Transactional CTA achieve business goals by getting your users to:

  • buy
  • order
  • book
  • enquire
  • pay
  • apply

Navigational CTA provide users with forward paths by linking to further information or a logical ‘next step’ in the user journey.

When you need to button it

Navigational CTA generally only need a hyperlink within the textFor example, ‘visit our Postgraduate website to find out more about funding opportunities’.

Transactional CTA require something with more impact. That’s where the T4 content type 08. Button comes in.

Buttons are larger and more eye-catching than hyperlinks. The text on them should be active, and encourage the user to do something like ‘buy now’ or ‘sign up’.

There’s examples of CTA buttons on our Go Mobile Demo website.


Think of your web page as a story, with the call to action as the epic climax. The narrative or your page (ie the rest of the content) should build anticipation for the call to action.

You should tell your users:

  • what the page is about
  • what the problem/issue/benefit is
  • a little of what the user will get out of pressing your button

Get it right

You can find out about different types of CTA, what types of pages to use them on, and even our top tips for using buttons.

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Making Research Readable for All

Journalists learn early that if you can’t explain your story simply – you don’t know it well enough.

It’s the old adage from experienced editors. It’s a rallying call for plain English and making the complex easy to understand.

Plain English and readability are key in getting your message across, whether your audience are esteemed academics or laypersons.

Fear of ‘dumbing down’

Some research academics break into a sweat over this. It’s as if making research understandable to all is ‘dumbing down’. But researchers often do themselves a disservice with their ‘impenetrable’ web content.

The recent Research Excellence Framework review by Lord Stern recommends research impact case studies provide evidence of public engagement and understanding.

You can achieve this with your website content. It’s also a way to attract non-traditional sources of funding. But explaining your work in 65-word sentences laden with verbose language won’t help.

Have the courage to speak plainly

I’m not saying it’s easy to write about technical research. It’s almost impossible to get away from some subject-specific jargon.

But there are ways of delivering easy-to-read research. And that’s without ‘dumbing down’ and patronising your peers.

Writing actively, in tight concise sentences is a start. Bulleted lists and bold to highlight key messages are also good ideas.

The Art of Scannable Content: How to Write for Today’s Online Readers and our blog are great for writing tips.

Use Hemingway App to help you. It allows you to play around with your words to get the best readability score.

Just doing this, without removing technical jargon, will help anyone read your content.

Don’t hide your research behind vocabulary

Don’t just stop at sentence size, structure and scannable content. You’re only half way there.

“All too often, research is hidden behind a vocabulary that is overly technical and disengaging, but there are ways to avoid that.”

Cracking the code for effective research communication, where this quote comes from, gives excellent advice on steps researchers can take to engage web audiences.

Always put forward how your research impacts on everyday life. Also think about whether you need jargon to tell people what it’s about.

Five minutes with Mark Blyth: “Turn it into things people can understand, let go of the academese, and people will engage” is useful. Academic Mark Blyth gives insight into his success through promoting his research online.

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Usability heads in the right direction

We’ve built something new. It’s a widget for giving your web users easy access to clear directions for the location of your school/faculty/service.

It’s the efficient way for our lovely web editors to help potential visitors to the University.

It eliminates the need for paragraphs of vague/potentially incorrect routes to take:

  • roads
  • rail services
  • walking routes
  • cycling routes

Our new T4 content type is ideal for your website’s Find Us or Contact Us page.

How it works

If you’re seeking to add this content type, you’ll need to choose 14. Google directions.

We advise you add this to the bottom of your page, as it sits to the left under preceding content. Use it further up and people might miss something you’ve written that is important.

There are two boxes to fill out once you’ve selected this content type. The first is title, which should be filled out with:

DIRECTIONS: insert name of your school/service/faculty here

The second box relates to where you actually want to send your website users.

Because much of the university campus has the same postcode, you need to enter the building name and postcode.

An example for the Institute of Cellular Medicine, would be:

William Leech Building NE2 4HH

Then just update and approve your content and wait for it to publish.

What your users get

Your website users will see a search facility on the page with a Find Us button. All they need to do is add their address or postcode into the box and click on the button.

They will instantly arrive on a Google Maps page that will plot the routes to your location:

  • road
  • rail
  • walking
  • cycling
  • flight (if they’re far enough away)

Because it’s all done through Google, the information is constantly updated to remain as accurate as it can be.

It’s also a visual representation that takes you through the journey and works with GPS, instead of paragraphs that vaguely get your users here.

An example is on our demo site. Have a go applying it to yours.

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Team update: 18 July – 29 July 2016

Go Mobile programme

Linda met with the School of History, Classics and Archaeology to line up their site for Batch 4. She’s also been working on the Business School website to make sure it’s ready to go.

This last week has been all about the proofreading and final amends to sites to get them ready for launch on 29 July (today).

Emily’s been working on the NICR and CEAM sites to get them ready to go live, and has also helped out with the proofing of the Business School site.

Emma C made the final amends to the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics website before passing it on to Andrew for proofing.

Andrew’s worked on editing sites for the Cardiovascular Research Centre and Institute of Cellular Medicine, before proofing English and helping proof the Business School site. He’s also completed the audit for CURDS in Batch 4.

Anne’s been proofing the Maths & Stats website ready for go live on 29 July.

Fen has been working on the School of Mathematics and Statistics website, and proofing the School of Chemistry website ready for go live today. She’s also been prepping for Batches 4 and 5, with audits of the Conference Team, Catering and Business Services websites.

Lisa has edited the School of Chemistry website, which has been proofed by Fen with help from Jane, who has pitched in with proofing for a number of sites. Jane also met with Accommodation to discuss further developments to their site, which launched in Batch 2.

There’s always ongoing planning for the next batches. Emma B and Linda have mapped out work in Batches 4 and 5.

Design and Technical developments

Catherine completed the colours and styles for websites in Batch 3 and has started some of Batch 4

Catherine has been building a T4 widget to provide Directions to our schools, faculties and services, with input from Jane and Andrew.

Peter has been conducting the technical preparation of websites in Batch 3, ready for Go Live on the 29 July (today).

Campaigns and other developments

Linda and Catherine met with the Advancement Team about design requirements for the new system they are implementing to manage the alumni community and events.

Peter dealt with a request from NU London to add campaign tracking from Rubicon.

Training and support

Fen and Linda delivered a full day training in Planning and Writing Web Content.

Andrew has delivered a half-day of media management training.

We’ve received 39 support requests through the NU Service Helpdesk and have resolved 22 of them.

Plans for the next few weeks

Starting Batch 4: audits, kick-off meetings and planning.

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Team Update: 11 – 22 April 2016

Go Mobile programme

Project manager Jane was elated to see the new Careers and Careers Occupations websites go live – marking the end of a six-month project.

It was a massive achievement by our team (it did involve most of us) and Careers, which has significantly improved a vital University service online.

Lisa wrote up specific handover notes to help Careers manage their busy events schedule in T4.

Both Lisa and Andrew were on hand for go live, giving Jane smelling salts/support/sugar when needed.

Lisa also set about auditing the Medical Sciences site before taking a well-earned holiday.

Catherine, Emily and Emma C met with NUMED colleagues to talk through proposed updates to their site.

Emma C is working with Marketing and Student Recruitment on a new process for making student profiles re-usable across different sites and in different contexts.

The Alumni, Giving and 1834 Fund websites have merged to become a brand new site for Alumni and Supporters.

Andrew audited sites for Mechanical & Systems Engineering, Pre-Arrival, the Northern Institute for Cancer Research and Civil Engineering & Geosciences.

Design and technical developments

The team is currently working on the requirements for MyImpact profiles in T4.

They have further developed the course search and identifying courses in Clearing and Adjustments on the UGP website.

They have created pre-migration templates for batch one websites:

  • NUMed
  • Marine
  • GPS
  • Accommodation
  • Medical Sciences

Training and support

Jane and Emma C ran sessions on planning and writing web content for editors with sites currently going through Go Mobile.

Anne ran a T4 CMS Basics workshop and bespoke T4 session for editors with sites going through Go Mobile. This week she’ll deliver a session for Careers staff looking at news, events and staff lists in T4.

We’ve received 30 support requests through NU Service Helpdesk and resolved 21 of them.

Plans for the next few weeks

We’ve got a Media Management training session next week.

Jane starts her next Go Mobile project. Look out Accommodation, here we come!

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