Privacy matters to internet users. People are aware of the dangers of giving out personal information, and everyone that has an email address understands the hazards and annoyances of spam.
As a result users are less inclined to type a lot of information in a website’s form. Whether it’s a contact form or an orderform, users will be reluctant to give you their information. Many research studies show that elaborate web forms turn users away.
Every field you add to a form will make it more likely a user will not fill it in and simply go somewhere else. Especially form fields like address and phone number throw up barriers for users that are concerned about their privacy.
It’s therefore important to keep the forms on your website as short and simple as possible. A mistake I often see is that companies base their forms on their own internal wish-list of customer information. Especially sales people want to have as much information on their customers as they can get their hands on. This usually leads to long forms that request a lot of information from users, often with little to no reward for the user when he fills it all in.
It’s necessary to use forms on your website, as a form makes it easier for a user to get in touch with you. But when you ask for much more information in the form than what you’d ask for if the customer simply phoned you, you’re not likely to get a lot of submitted forms.
Whenever you create a form for your website, keep these guidelines in mind to ensure your visitors will feel comfortable filling it in and giving you their information.
Only ask for the absolute bare minimum. For generic contact forms the name, email address and message fields are enough. For online orderforms only ask for the minimum information you need to properly complete the order process. Any additional field risks a potential customer turning away and going to a competitor.
Reward your users for giving you their information. If you really, really need to ask a lot of information from your users, give them a reward that fits the amount of information you’ve requested. This reward can be in the form of a free downloadable ebook or white paper, a possibility to win a prize like a mp3 player, or another reward that fits with your target group. Make sure this reward is clearly indicated on the form itself.
Give your form proper context and explanation. Don’t just put a form up on a web page without any explanation. The best forms are those that are short and simple and clearly indicate to the user what happens with their submitted information.
Encourage your users to submit the form. By using action words such as “submit now”, “learn more”, and “sign up today” you encourage your users to fill in the form and will make them feel good about doing so.
Use a “thank you” page. When a user submits the form, send them to a “thank you” page where you confirm what you will do with their information, such as replying to the customer’s inquiry, giving them the link to the downloadable reward, enrolling them in the prize draw, etc.
Measure the submission rate. Track how many submissions you receive compared to how many page views the form itself gets. If the submission rate is very low, you’ll need to tweak your form even more. A submission rate of 20% is a good figure for generic contact forms, so don’t be surprised if your form does a lot worse than that.
Use a simple CAPTCHA [?] to ensure your submitted forms actually come from humans instead of automated spam robots. Some CAPTCHAs are overly complex and difficult to read even for humans, which leads to real people abandoning your forms instead of just spambots.
Simple forms pay off in the long run. You may generate some additional work for yourself or your sales people with the limited information you receive, but it will result in many more contact moments with your clients and eventually in more paying customers.