Optimizing Web Forms for Conversion

By OctaneGo, May 24, 2012 | Tips & Resources

Whatever the differences in their approach to the world wide web, all online marketers agree on one thing:- their web forms are just not getting the job done anymore. And truth be told, the average user is as scared of web forms as he is of pop-ups. But the reason is not that web forms are inherently intimidating, but that most—in fact, almost all—of the forms populating the Web are not designed for usability. That then, has a direct impact on the conversions expected from these forms.

To tackle this problem, we have come up with these 6 tips for improving web forms and increasing the conversion rate from them:

  1. Meaningful Error Messages: Almost all forms have some client- or server-side validation. Unfortunately, the whole purpose gets defeated by convoluted error messages such as ‘Name is not primary key’ or ‘Error 8531’. On a web form, error messages should be easy to understand, friendly and informative.
  2. Useful ‘Cancel’ Button: The idea of a form is to achieve an aim, which means you need to let the user go with the flow and make up his/her mind. As such, having a glaring ‘Cancel’ button that lets the visitor completely exit your form can be your enemy. Instead, the cancel button should let the visitor get redirected to more information and another call to action but no compulsion to fill a form. Subtle persuasion and showing value is the key.
  3. Follow Single-Column Format: Of course there are many ‘creative’ ways to design a web form, but for forms that are more than 2-3 fields in length, a vertical, single-column layout is the best fit. The reason is simple: when fields are stacked below one another, the eye doesn’t have to move about too much, resulting in a more pleasant experience.
  4. Critical vs. Non-Critical Fields: Not all fields are created equal. While some are absolutely critical, others can be skipped. A good web form clearly demarcates the important required fields, making it easier and faster to complete the form.
  5. Provide Visual Cues: The use of visual cues is to make the form more communicative. One example is to highlight the current field by using a contrasting background color; another is to give feedback to the user, such as a ‘tick mark’ or writing “That looks good!” when correct information is entered.
  6. Use of Fonts and Colors: No two ways about this one. Your web forms deserve as much attention as your website; and that means elegant fonts and a good color scheme that keeps up the consistency and symmetry with your other pages.

There are a thousand different ways of creating web forms, and so, a thousand ways to go wrong. But following these tips should help you increase your conversion rate from web forms, provide a better experience for your users and reward your marketing efforts.

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