Eliminating Friction Words From Your Button Copy

  • Button copy is the site of conversion and deserves attention
  • The words you choose for your buttons matter
  • High friction words suggest the user has to give up something
  • Low friction words make work feel less like work

Friction in CopywritingIn my Mixergy course, I spoke briefly about something called “friction words”.

Friction words are words that describe things people have to do – not things people want to do. They cause cognitive friction. Web copy that converts is focused on what people want to do.

Most often, friction words are found in calls to action.

Why is that? Because, to my great dismay, people don’t spend much time writing buttons.

The reason I wrote “web copy” instead of “button copy” in the title of this post is because you probably wouldn’t read it if you thought this was “just” about buttons.

Here’s wassup: The shorter the copy, the less time people think they need to spend on it – when, in fact, short copy is hard to write and should demand more attention from the copy hacker. Great buttons take time to write.

AND buttons are SO MAJOR for conversion – [highlight]a visitor can’t convert without clicking a button[/highlight] – that you should slap your hands right now if you don’t give them the attention they deserve.

When you’re done beating yourself up, open your site in a new window, and look for these common friction words across your site’s buttons:

High Friction Words – AVOID!
(These words suggest that you have to give up something, whether time, money, energy or your inbox)


Sign Up




Donate / Sponsor / Support



Medium Friction Words – BE CAREFUL!
(These words suggest that you get to do something you want to, but it may cause work)








Once you find those words, set up a test or two in VWO (my go-to testing tool) or Optimizely (my new shiny toy), and try rewording those calls to action so that they focus on what the end user actually wants to do.

Low-friction words are the words we’re aiming for in calls to action. These are words that either let us achieve gratification passively or make something that is work feel less like work. These words may include:


Check Out (as in “check this out”, not “checkout”)




Now, sometimes you can’t simply remove the high- or medium-friction word. In those cases, you may wish to extend the length of your button and lead with a benefit / something good the user will feel when they do the work-filled thing your button is asking them to do.

The following examples will help clarify.


Transform the mildly off-putting prospect of work…

…into a power-packed nerd opportunity

Don’t make your visitors commit…

…when they’re still just looking for info

The word “donate” means “lose money”, so…

…replace scary words with wonderful benefits

I know how hard it can be to move your call to action copy from ho-hum, safe, expected or standard… to the point of least resistance. But it’s well worth it, don’t you think?

Because, allow me to repeat: a visitor to your site or a user of your app cannot convert without clicking a button. You can convert without reading a headline; you can convert without watching a video; you can convert without looking at testimonials or feature lists or benefits messaging or reasons to believe.

But you cannot actually convert online without clicking a button.

So go run the test!

Or, if you’re like me and you see this as a usability fix – because minimizing friction means maximizing usability, which makes it easier to convert rather than ‘influencing’ conversion – screw the test! Go make the damn fix on your site right now. …Actually, sorry, I should take my own advice and give you a low-friction call to action:

Boost Your Chances of Making a Sale!
Tweak Your Button Copy Fast… Right Now