7 easy steps to increase form usability (and submissions)
If you’re running a business online, you’re almost certain to find yourself using web forms to interact with your customers. Whether it’s a shopping cart, newsletter sign-up or free download in exchange for personal data, your form is one of the most important aspects of your online presence. Getting it wrong could cost you more than just money.
I could go into lots of reasons why you should really care about your web forms, but the simple and most important one is trust. Get it right, and you won’t lose your customers’ trust (unless you plan on ripping them off after they sign up for your offer!) Get it wrong, and you stand to lose your customer and his trust.
This 7-step guide shows you how to increase form submissions by addressing simple usability issues which strongly effect trust levels among your prospects.
1. Be quick
People hate forms. How often have you put off filling in your tax return, your insurance claims or your passport renewal application? Forms are boring, time consuming, and something we’d all rather live without. Not a good start, is it?
With this history, it’s vital that you make your online forms as simple, short, and to-the-point as possible. Because guess what? On the web, people are even more impatient. So never ask for information you don’t need, or information you can’t easily justify having. Never use two fields when one will do, and remember that each field you add increases the likelihood of your form being abandoned.
2. Be clear
3. Be linear
Organise your form fields into a single column, and group related fields together with descriptive headings or labels. A single column is important because it avoids confusion, especially for users who tab between fields. Nothing is more frustrating that tabbing to a different field than you’re expecting. For multiple-page forms, a simple progress indicator is essential. Without one, your users will feel quickly overwhelmed, and probably abandon your form en masse.
4. Be Helpful
Whenever you think a user may need it, provide help text. Telling users in advance how to format their date entry, or telephone number saves on tim wasted, error messages and frustration. Place help text clearly under the form label, and include a link to more a detailed page if you think it may be useful. Be careful here – if you decide to do this, make sure the link opens in a modular window. Taking your user away from a half-filled form is a recipe for abandonment.
5. Be focused
Help your customers see what they’re doing by obviously highlighting the current form field. Don’t rely on the default browser settings. Something with real contrast helps your prospects’ eye-path, and reduces frustration. This leads directly to step 6.
6. Be responsive
7. Be inviting
It’s unfortunate that web forms were invented by programmers and not copywriters, because the default “submit” text on the submit button is probably the worst little piece of copy on your site. Think about it, would you like to submit to anything? No! And neither would your users. So make the button text something active (use verbs) and something that reminds the user why they’re going to all the effort of filling out your form anyway. Something like “Update my account,” “Complete my secure payment,” “Go to step 2,” or “Send me my free sample chapter today” will attract far more clicks than “submit” ever will.
Making your web forms the most agile part of your website will save you a lot of time, and probably make a huge dent in your customer support inbox. Your prospects won’t just thank you for it, they’ll become your customers because of it.