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Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 at 4:52 pm

If Calls to Action on the Right are Wrong…

By Robert Gorell
January 2nd, 2008

...and click

…I don’t wanna be, um, right?

Over at Optimize and Prophe$ize, Jonathan Mendez claims that Google has modified YouTube to be more in line with its typical search results pages. Specifically, Jonathan asserts [emphasis mine] that,

On purpose or not (at this point I think it’s conscious) a site with as many page views and actions as YouTube is training users eyes to where relevant information exists. On YouTube most contextually relevant links and calls to action are on the right side. This is in stark contrast to the web convention of left navigation. The more people start to look for relevance on the right side of the page the better it is for Google and their advertisers.

But who’s “training” whom? First of all, the distinction between ‘navigation’ and calls to action is glossed over. When we’re navigating, we haven’t yet found what we’re looking for, but we’re still willing to poke around the site for answers. On the other hand, when visitors click through on a call to action link for, say, an ad, they do so with the expectation that they’re leaving the site completely. Secondly, and more importantly, guessing whether Google would (subconsciously?) optimize YouTube to get people used to clicking on the right-hand side misses the bigger point. Testing, at least in our experience with improving online conversion, reveals that visitors tend to click more on calls to action that are placed on the right, especially those living right-of-center in the active window. (Here’s a rough guide for plotting screen real estate.) Finally, neither Google nor YouTube has changed their appearance much since the 2006 acquisition. By most accounts, YouTube has gotten much easier to use, and it’s pretty rare to find an ad on the right side like the one Jonathan shows in his comparison. Regardless, the idea of “training” visitors to behave the way we want them to sounds about as promising as waiting for your cat to bark.

Hopefully this won’t come across as nitpicking — especially since it’s meant as a conversation-starter. Jonathan’s blog is one of our favorites, and it’s always good to see someone looking seriously at where calls to action are being placed, and why.

The good news is that neither of us has to be right, so to say. If you’d like to test how calls to action (ads or otherwise) perform on your site, check out our free resources for getting started with Google’s (also free) Website Optimizer.

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Comments (3)

  1. What about Fitts Law? According to that, placement of links, be they navigation or calls to action, nearer to the scroll bar makes more sense as it is easier/quicker for the user to move from scrolling the page to selecting a link.

  2. Hmmm, yet more evidence that the web changes nothing and the old rules are just as relevant on the web.

    For several centuries newspapers, magazines and publications of all kinds have charged a premium for content that appears in the top right area. Centuries of research have told them that that is where people’s eyes first go to.

    In fact all forms of publications adhere to this rule of putting the important stuff on the right hand page or side, and either centre or top of that page.

    People have been used to this convention all of their lives in offline media. When they come to the web they have centuries of collective experience of reading this way.

    And we all know we shouldn’t mess with the conventions, right?

    I think, as implied above, that it is the customers training the web designers (finally).

  3. wow great article

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