Making it easy for your audience to take action


Without the gate, my bunnies would be running around the house. What barriers are keeping your audience from taking action?

I have two bunnies that roam around the house all day while I’m working. I don’t want them to go into my bedroom because they have chewed through more cell phone chargers than I care to count. So I put up a doggy gate to keep them in the living room area. They could jump the gate if they wanted to, and once in a while they do. But for the most part, it’s too much effort and they’re content enough in the living room. However, if I removed the gate, the bunnies would be running around all over the house in no time!

I think a lot of us are like that – we’re generally content where we are, but if a few barriers were removed we’d gladly take the opportunity to do something else.

On your website, there are a lot of potential barriers preventing people from completing various tasks. Small changes can have a big impact on retention and form completion rates.


To do:

Take a look at your website and imagine that you are visiting it for the first time. If you have a hard time pretending you aren’t familiar with the site, have someone else help you out with this task. As you explore the site, think about potential barriers visitors may encounter to:

  • Find out information about your programs
  • Share pages via social media, email, and print
  • Register for events
  • Donate
  • Sign up for the e-mail list
  • Contact your staff with specific questions
  • Access important documents and information
  • Search for something they need

In your analytics, look at your top exit pages. If your donation and/or registration pages are on the top of the list, you definitely need to make some changes now.

Write down the potential barriers people might encounter such as long sign-up forms, lack of detailed information, or buried content.

Choose two or three barriers to address now and make a plan for tackling the rest.

Here are some ideas:

  • Be clear about how much time it will take to complete a task. Be honest, because if you say something will take 5 minutes and it actually takes 10, people will not be happy that it took more time than they had planned for.
  • Reduce the number of fields you use in your forms. Even if most of the information isn’t required, a long form will turn people away.
  • Make information in PDF documents easily accessible.
  • Include a short introductory video to explain what your organization does and how to use tools on your website.
  • Have multiple ways for people to contact you, and make contact information easy to find.
  • Make sure your layout is printer-friendly (you may need to work with your web designer to make adjustments).
  • Add “share” buttons (try tools like AddThis or Sumome).

How to get one-time web visitors to take action

Before your website visitors leave, invite them to come back. Build a relationship before asking them to take action.

Before your website visitors leave, invite them to come back. Build a relationship before asking them to take action.

You may not be able to get your website visitors to donate, volunteer, or register for an event the first time they visit your page – these are big things to ask people to do. Signing up for an e-newsletter or following you on social media is a much smaller commitment. Once they get to know you, they will be more likely to commit to something more.

“But I want people to stay on my website foreverrrr.”

Yes, I do too. People will have to leave your site eventually, but before they leave, invite them to subscribe to your e-mail list or follow you on social media so you can invite them to come back. Then you can start building a relationship and the next time you ask your audience to do something they will be more likely to take action.


To do:

Take a look at your top exit pages in the last couple of months. These are great pages to add a pop-up to sign up for your e-newsletter or follow you on social media because you have nothing to lose. The worst that can happen is that people will leave your site – which is what they are doing anyway! If you can gather email addresses or increase your social media following in the process, this is a win for you.

Check with your email program to see if they have pop-up codes you can add to your site. This is a great way to get started. You can also check out these programs that offer advanced features such as A/B testing, customizable templates, and analytics:

  • Sumome
  • Screenpopper
  • Pop-up domination


E-newsletter vs. social media

In each pop-up, only ask for ONE thing. Subscribing to your e-newsletter or following you on social media are small, easy tasks your audience can do right away. So which one should you choose?

I recommend building your e-newsletter list. Having followers on social media is great, but email is one of the best tools for reaching your audience for most situations. You’ll also be able to reach a wider audience – not everyone is active on social media networks, but most people have an email account they check regularly.

The only exceptions are if you know your audience is very active on a particular social media network, or one of your communication goals is to increase your following on a social media channel. Even so, I still think collecting email addresses will be much more valuable in the long-run.


Advanced tip:

Create customized pop-ups for different sections of your website.

For example, let’s say your organization runs a summer camp for children with muscular dystrophy. One of your top exit pages is the “About the camp” page and another is “Volunteer opportunities.”

For the “About the camp page,” you could target your pop-up to parents and feature one or two testimonials from previous campers with an invitation to learn more.

For the “Volunteer opportunities” page, you could feature a testimonial from a past volunteer or camper and let them know they can also make a difference.