5 Ways to Improve Your Online Forms

Posted on November 17, 2011 • Written by Brad Anderson
online form amazon

Sample online form from Amazon.com

Whether you’re hoping for visitors to sign up for a newsletter, submit their contact information for your sales team or make a purchase, an intuitive form is a crucial piece of almost any website.

But despite the make-or-break nature of online forms, many sites neglect these pages, and their conversions and bottom line suffer as a result. Making website forms simple and functional isn’t hard; start with these five items to make sure you’re getting all the conversions that you deserve.

1. Less is More…Most of the time
Request the smallest amount of information possible from your visitors rather than requesting everything from their email address to their shoe size. The fewer fields they have to fill out the more likely visitors will be to make it to the “submit” button. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If the purchase is a large dollar amount or is a complex sale our tests have shown that having at least 4 fields produces better results. Our tests have also shown that if you ask for what the user wants first they are more likely to complete the form. If the user starts to tell you what they are contacting you for then they are investing their time in the form. If they start out with your name and email they may have second thoughts. This strategy goes against the popular thought on forms of name first and can be confusing to some users and on some websites. This is where conversion testing is critical on forms.

2. Don’t Use a “Submit” Button
This generic button label doesn’t make it clear what’s happening when a form is completed. If the form signs up for a newsletter your final button should indicate that (“Get Our Newsletter” or something similar). Or if the user is making a purchase, labeling the button “Complete Purchase” or “Finish Checkout” lets them know what’s going to happen when they click.

3. Consistency is Key
Choose a label type (individual words vs. complete sentences, sentence case vs. title case) and stick with it. Also make sure that your input fields stay consistent with forms in general; this is not the place to get creative. Users have expectations about how forms should work, and you need to keep them comfortable to ensure they will make it to the end of the form.

4. Be Smart About Errors
If there’s an error on the form, make sure it’s clear to the user where the error occurs so they can correct it quickly. Avoid red text and all caps, which don’t feel friendly. Also, please, please, please don’t clear the entire form when an error occurs. Think about it – would you go back and fill it in again?

5. Capitalize on Conversions
After a form has been completed consider where you should send the user. Forms shouldn’t be just a dead end, but should help further serve the goals of your site. Maybe a customer would like to see potential future purchases, or someone who’s signed up for a newsletter would be interested in browsing old ones?

For more about online forms, check out this Extensive Guide to Web Form Usability from Smashing Magazine.

Brad Anderson

Written by Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson is the Executive Director and Founder of Fruition. Brad’s focus is supporting Fruition’s team to enable sustainable growth and excellent client satisfaction (EBITDA growth). With a strong statistical background, Brad built Fruition’s in-house software that is used to manage client success.

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