8 Tips For Creating Great Web Forms

Sam Rose - Head of Content

Sam Rose

29th November 2016

If you have a website, it’s likely that you also have at least one web form. Forms on your website can take many different, er, forms, such as contact forms, get a quote forms, or forms to fill out during the checkout process. When they’re well-designed, forms are an easy way for customers to submit information which gets emailed to you so you can act upon the information they send – whether that’s by sending an email replying to their query, calling them, or fulfilling their order.

If you don’t have any forms on your website you probably have an email address listed somewhere instead, but if your email is written out in full on your website you could be susceptible to spam bots which crawl the web looking for email addresses to send rubbish to. So if you want to give your customers an easy way to get in touch with you, and you’d rather not receive any offers for Viagra or links to unsavoury websites, forms are the way forward.

But it’s not quite as simple as putting some questions and a submit box on your website. Here are some tips to help you get as many leads or conversions through your forms as possible.

 1.       Be clear about what your form is for

It may be obvious what your form is for if it’s part of the checkout process, for example. But sometimes you need to be absolutely clear about what the user can expect once they have filled in your form. For email newsletter sign up forms, let people know what they will receive – will they get monthly or weekly updates, periodical offers, or information on a specific service? If it’s a contact form, let them know how and when they should expect to be contacted. For ‘get a quote’ forms, let them know if they will receive an automatic quote on your website, or if you will get in touch with them personally. You can do this both before the user fills in the form and also on the thank you page that is shown after the form has been submitted.

 2.       Think beyond the contact page 

If you use contact forms or newsletter subscription forms, you probably have these on your contact page. However, it may be a good idea to think about where else these can go. For example, a newsletter subscription form could go on every page of your website in the header or footer so that it is easy to find. A user could decide they want to hear more from you at any point when looking at your website, so make sure they are aware that they can sign up to your email updates.

You could also put your contact form on multiple pages. For example, if you have several services you offer, you could put a contact form on each of these service pages. You could then include a drop-down list of services on your contact form, and automatically set it to select the service described on that page.

 3.       Don’t ask too many questions

People might want to fill out your form because it’s a means to an end, but nobody actively enjoys doing them, so your forms should be as quick and easy to fill out as possible. This means you shouldn’t ask questions you don’t really need the answers to. For example, do you really need to know someone’s date of birth when they’re creating an account on your website? If you’re going to send them special offers on their birthday then by all means do ask, otherwise  there isn’t much point and it makes your form longer for no reason. 

If a user thinks your form is too long to bother with, they might not fill it in and you’ll have lost a potential lead or sale. Either remove unnecessary questions, or use asterisks to show which questions are mandatory and which ones aren’t, so that a user can skip the less important ones if they want to.

 4.       Show progress for long forms

Sometimes there’s no other way around it and your form has to be quite long – for example if it’s a survey, a form for requesting a quote which requires a lot of information, or a form used during the checkout process. In these cases one long form on a page can be daunting, so it’s a good idea to break up the form across multiple pages. If you’re going to do this, you should give the customer an indication of the progress they are making so they can see how much they have left to do. You could do this using a progress bar at the top of the page, or by showing a list of the steps that need to be completed. Long forms are one of several causes of cart abandonment, but providing feedback on the user’s progress could help to tackle this.

 5.       Keep your newsletter checkboxes simple

Many contact forms or sign up forms include a checkbox at the bottom which asks if the user would like to sign up to the company’s newsletter. This is a good way to collect email addresses for your mailing list if people do opt in, but you need to think carefully about the wording of this question.

Users should have to opt into your emails – asking them to opt out and assuming you have permission if they don’t is an ethically grey area, not to mention potentially confusing. So ask “Would you like to receive our monthly newsletter?” using yes or no radio buttons. Or say “I would like to receive offers and updates via email”, and provide a checkbox for the user to tick. Don’t say “I do not wish to receive email offers”, and make people tick the box, or “Wouldn't you like to not decline opting out of periodical email updates?” Okay, so I exaggerated the last one for effect, but you can see how it could be confusing for someone to want to say no to a question but have to tick a box in order to do so.

Something else I saw a long time ago was a form that said “Tick here to agree to our terms and conditions and to sign up to our newsletter”. I couldn’t complete the form without ticking the box, but I didn’t want to receive their emails and thought it was pretty rude and sneaky for them to lump their email subscription in with the terms and conditions in that way. Needless to say, I did not complete the form.

 6.       Make good use of drop-down fields

If you want to know where people heard about your company, or which of your services they are interested in, or which country they live in, use drop-down menus so that people can select an answer rather than typing it in. This is easier for the user, makes their replies more uniform, and leaves less room for confusion if they were to type in something you don’t expect.

 7.       Give users enough space

If you have a comment box or something similar where users can write a paragraph of text, make sure you make the box big enough. This means making it physically big enough so people can see what they are typing if they are writing something long, and also giving them enough characters to do it in. Nobody wants to get cut off halfway through their sentence.

 8.       Stop Spam With a CAPTCHA or honeypot

At the beginning of this post we mentioned that spambots send junk to email addresses they find online, but what if spambots start filling in your forms? There are a few options to combat this, some of which which are very effective and also require minimal effort from your customers. You can find out more in our earlier blog post Are You A Robot? Spambot Solutions Explained.

I hope this blog post, which remarkably mentions the word ’form’ or ‘forms’ 44 times, (did we break a record?) has been informative (sorry). If you need help with any aspect of website design and development to help increase your leads or conversion rate, get in touch!

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