Anyone that uses the web had filled up at least once a form. We need to fill them up to order a product, book a ticket, send a request, subscribe to a site… we need web forms almost for everything nowadays.
A website is usually build by more than one professionals: designer, developers, content writers, web master… and all of those figures of the team would design a forum in a different way. The designer wants a cool forum full of fancy stuff, a developer would like to add special functions, and usually the content writer or web master would like to ask many things to the user to have as much data as possible.
The result of all this is a big mess and a form that will make users mad. More than half of them will abandon it before getting to the end and will probably forget the site bookmarking it as nightmare. A disaster.
A form is the most important part of the site. It’s that part that will convert a simple user to a converted user. In other words, the form makes a user a bill of xx dollars.
This is why you should work a lot on the optimization of a form, and if possible test it with at least 10 different users.
Let’s see this into detail.
Planning a form that converts
- Have the goals in mind and be simple
When planning a form on the website you need to have in mind the goal of the form. What are the essential data you need for the business? Do you really need to know how tall is the customer to send him a ticket of the local football match?
Remember that users don’t want to spend to much time on a form. They want to got through it very fast and they get annoyed when things get to long.
When you build a form think first of all at the user, and than what you really need to ask him. Remember that optional and not essential information can be asked in a second moment, after the user has registered and done the main action we want him to do, for instance book a ticket.
Once you thought about the data you need to retrieve think about the technology to use. Keep in mind that users are not all a computer fan. Probably half of them have an old 5 years desktop computer with antique technology and software. Knowing your target market and their behavior will help.
- Guide the user
It’s very important that the form will reassure, communicate and guide the user through. Walk him to each step with an easy look and feel and with informational box where he can click and read why he should compile or answer to a question, or simply help him understand what you are asking.
This will avoid users to leave the form because they don’t know what to answer or why they should do so.
On your form use a step map so that the user will know how many steps he has to go through. This is very important if the form is very long. Dividing the form into steps will help a lot.
- Error messages
It’s also important to optimize the error messages. It’s very common that users fail to fill the form for many reasons. For instance they forget to fill up the birth date and the field is mandatory. Make sure the error message is smooth and simple to understand. Tell them gently where the error is and guide them on how to fix it.
- Use customer service and live chat
If you can afford one, use a live chat on the site, reachable from all form pages. This will reassure the user and it could save from lot’s of abandons.
If you have a customer service put the phone number visible on the form, so that if a user has a problem can phone you to solve it.
- Have a nice thank you page
You did it. That user is now your customer. Thank him with a nice thank you page summarizing all the data you asked him. That customer is really important for your business, make sure he understands that.
As you can see, it’s not easy to build a perfect form. You always have to think how a customer would like it, and then mix their needs with your business needs. Use web analytics to track user behaviour on the form and see the abandonment rate. If you set the analytics software properly, you can retrieve all the information you need to understand if your form is good enaugh or it’s making you lose customer and thus money.
You are always on time to test and make changes.