Why “read more” buttons are killing your website’s User Experience
How much thought is given to the button copy on your website?
Poor little web buttons are almost always overlooked, often just a quick ‘read more’ or ‘click here’ chucked on a website.
They don’t need thinking about though, right? They make sense because they follow on from what’s been said above them? Users will understand…? The problem with this logic is that it totally ignores how people actually read online.
Here’s the big truth: People scan-read webpages instead of reading like they would read a book. (We’ve looked at this before)
But why do people scan-read webpages?
Back in 2015, Google conducted in-depth research to see why people use the internet. They found that most online activity was based around four key motivators:
“I want to know”
“I want to do”
“I want to buy”
“I want to go”
Their findings give us some insights into why people are scan-reading. By understanding why people are using the internet, we gain an awareness of what people are looking to achieve, a goal that matters to them.
If a website doesn’t answer their needs, they’ll move onto a competitor’s website, and keep going down the search results until they find the answer they need.
Now, when Google can provide users with thousands (if not millions) of results for a single search term, there isn’t a feasible way a person can read them all.
This is where scan-reading becomes beneficial.
By scan-reading webpages, users can quickly grasp what the content is about and see if it’s relevant to their needs. If it’s not, they can dismiss it. And if it is, only then will they start to engage with the content.
What are people looking at when they scan-read?
Knowing that people are scan-reading webpages is only half the battle. It’s equally as important to understand what they’re looking at when they scan-read.
With this, we can start to build an idea of what elements in the design and content can be optimised to assist with scan-reading.
Elements that we look at are:
• Navigation bars
And… you guessed it;
And this leads us to one of the biggest problems with using ‘read more’, ‘click here’ or ‘learn more’ on your buttons.
They lack context.
As users scan through a webpage, they’re using these visual cues to tell them what the website is about. They are trying to quickly find the answer to their individual needs.
Using generic labels like “read more” doesn’t tell the user what the content is about.
For example, this graphic shows where the eye is commonly drawn when scan-reading a typical webpage:
Notice how the eye line begins at the title, moves to the image, and finishes on the button.
At no point does the user read the main content block.
Generally, when generic button text is used, it’s to encourage a follow-on action from the information before it. However, if that information isn’t read, then the follow-on action is meaningless.
Take for example this older version of the MailChimp website:
Whilst the titles are great at conveying the talking points, each of these buttons uses vague ‘learn more’ titles. This means the user has to read the short content in between the title and the button to understand what the context of the links are. That’s frustrating for the user.
Adding context to buttons can improve the usability of webpages by helping scan-reading.
How do you make buttons better?
Consider what the user will get on the other side of a click, then use that to influence what a button content should say.
Here’s a great example from W3C of how you can use the end path to influence link text:
Once users can see that the information on the other side of the click is relevant to them, they’re more likely to stop scan reading and engage with the content.
How to write good button content?
The Nielsen Norman Group are a research group that specialises in user experience. They produce a fantastic guide for writing button or link copy that helps improve useability and aids in scan-reading.
This guide provides four simple considerations that buttons or link copy needs to adhere to. For a button to be effective it needs to be:
• Specific – provide relevant context
• Sincere – not mislead the user
• Substantial – use clear meaningful language
• Succinct – get straight to the point
Ensuring button copy adheres to these four points can greatly improve results on a page through not only Click-Through-Rates but also increased Average Session Time and reduced Bounce Rate – metrics that help identify whether users are engaging with content.
Understanding how people are using websites and gaining actionable insights from it can vastly improve a brand’s online performance.
Button copy is a simple area of improvement than any marketer can action. Start with a review of what buttons and links already exist. Where do these buttons and links go – what’s on the other side of that click? Does the button or link clearly inform the users and provide context?
Play around with changing the copy. Run tests to see what phrasing help generate more clicks. Always be optimising!