10 conversion considerations with online forms
I’ve been reviewing a few online forms recently, and it got me thinking about how in this age of mobile-centric design it is more important than ever to offer a good user experience through forms. As a result, I thought I would write a blog post about what you should consider from a conversion point of view when creating web forms.
Here are 10 things you should consider:
1. Keep the number of fields to a minimum. Only include those fields that capture absolutely critical information. Anything else can be collected later in the process. Your sole aim should be to get the conversion (whether that be a payment, lead, or email address). It may sound obvious, but the more fields you have, the less likely your prospect is going to complete the form and convert.
2. Standards are there for a reason. Stick to them. It’s always a good idea to adhere to design conventions, and this is especially the case with online forms. Make sure they flow logically, and that they are structured within a single column rather than multiple columns, as this will generally make them less confusing, and more mobile-friendly too. Having questions/labels above the field rather than beside them tends to work best for responsive websites, but make sure you test both to see what works best for your audience.
3. Provide context. It’s always a good idea to give an indication of where users are in the application process, and an estimate for how long it’s going to take them to complete the form. You’ve probably seen general insurance websites that tell you what you’re going to need to complete the form (registration details, driver’s licence etc.) and an ‘it should take you about x minutes to complete your application’ message. Insurance forms are notoriously long as they need lots of information, so anything that can create the illusion of reducing the time and effort required to complete them is usually seized on.
4. Don’t make visitors have to create an account to buy a product. This is one of the primary reasons for visitors to leave a website, and it’s such an easy thing to fix. You need to be able to show prospective customers that it’s worth their while to create an account with you, and most of the time it’s just seen as an unnecessary impediment to the buying process. If there’s no getting round your customer gateway then allow them to go through as a ‘guest’. But if at all possible remove this functionality completely and ask them to create an account after they have purchased in a separate email.
5. Break down long forms and have a ‘save’ button. If it’s a long form, test having sections in a concertina/collapsed, and expand the section when they get to it. This is a psychological trick that can help to make your form seem less long than it actually is. Also, allowing users to save the form if they aren’t able to complete it in one go can be a great way of maintaining engagement, making it far more likely that they will come back to complete it.
6. Indicate progress. Give the prospect the sense that they are making good progess by adding a green tick after a section has been completed correctly. This promotes confidence that the details added have been ‘accepted’ by you, but also has the added psychological benefit of showing that they are getting to the finishing line! Completion rates are generally much higher with forms that have this functionality built in.
7. Provide multiple payment options. In the payment section of your form, don’t just offer customers the option of paying by credit card. Over 20 million shoppers use PayPal each year, while Visa Debit is the most widely-accepted payment card in the world. Denying prospective customers the ability to pay by these methods could result in you missing out on a huge volume of sales, and it’s easy to resolve.
8. Engender trust with security features. The majority of people who shop online these days don’t think twice when entering their payment card details – especially on websites they use frequently. However, it’s always a good idea to show potential customers that you have a trustworthy website, particularly if you are a lesser-known brand. Put visitors’ minds at rest before they buy by adding security icons to your payment page (a padlock, or Verified by Visa badges, for example). You might think it’s unnecessary, but in this age of mass cybercrime anything you can do to quell those subconscious fears that prevent conversion will help.
9. Consider adding help icons. Help buttons that users can hover over to see what sort of information you’re expecting them to enter can boost form field completion. It’s also a good idea to include example ghost text in the field itself, as this will help steer the user to a more accurate response, and reduce any confusion as to what they should enter into the field. Anything that minimises doubt in a customer’s mind is worth trying.
10. Include inline validation. Form users want immediate feedback on the responses they are typing into the form’s fields. Make sure your form validates each time they complete a question rather than when they hit the Submit button at the end. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting to the end of a long form and being met by a sea of red text showing you where you’ve gone wrong. Instant inline validation minimises this.