Most website owners have specific reasons for wanting to capture information from at least some of their visitors (for example, those people interested in their services), and need to capture certain information from other visitors (for example, those people who are making an online purchase). Even if you only want to hear from people interested in your services, a simple contact form can be beneficial for four reasons:
As a result of how useful they are to website owners, online forms have become a ubiquitous feature of the internet. But this relentless increase has seen the rise of so-called "form fatigue", where visitors become tired of entering and re-entering their details. Each person who views a form and subsequently submits it is referred to as a "conversion", and if you use Google Analytics you will have first-hand knowledge of the fact that not all visitors convert. Since your own website's online forms are probably the primary way in which you attract leads or make sales, if they are not conversion-optimized they can also represent a barrier to your business being successful. Optimizing your website's forms to maximize conversions should therefore be a priority.
When designing your online forms, it is important to remember that in most cases you are asking complete strangers to give you their personal information. For this reason, it is paramount that you attempt to reassure them by employing the following best practices:
When you are asking a visitor to your website to part with personal information, it is important to consider how they feel. Most people are hesitant to give out their personal details to just anyone, and most visitors are short of time and will resent having to complete a complicated form. Here are some reasons why you should therefore think about how much information you actually need from your visitors and only ask them for that:
Perhaps surprisingly, small changes to the design and layout of your forms and their elements (such as the submit button) can significantly increase your conversion rate. A 2009 study by cxpartners reached the following conclusions about the layout of form fields:
Multiple studies have also shown that the size, shape, color and wording of form submit buttons can also have substantial impact on conversion rates:
It is important to note that there are no hard and fast rules about the style or wording of submit buttons, and that different varieties will work more effectively on different websites, depending on the genre, website design and copy of each. But, if you are lucky enough to enjoy significant numbers of visitors to your form pages, it is definitely worth testing a variety of submit buttons since, as we have seen, slight changes can yield significant results.
The faster and more easily a visitor to your website can complete a form, the more conversions you will attain. You can make your online forms easier to complete by labeling each field's HTML code with the appropriate WHATWG HTML Standard data type for their autocomplete attribute. This means that when a visitor has autocomplete enabled, their browser will autocomplete each form field with the value they normally enter for such a data type when they click on it.
Completing online forms can be especially frustrating on mobile devices, with the visitor often having to switch between different keyboard options. If your website is built using HTML5, you can also make it easier for these users by labeling each form field's HTML code with the appropriate input type. For example, when a form field is labeled with the "email" input type, the user's device will automatically display the buttons commonly used for writing email addresses (such as "@" and ".com").
As online forms continue to be more prolific, some designers have taken to designing forms that look less and less like conventional web forms with a view to further increasing conversion rates. In one example, Vast.com designed a form for a car dealership in the style of the Mad Libs word game, resulting in an average increase in conversions of 25-40%:
While less-conventional forms wouldn't suit all types of website, we are likely to see more forms like this as designers embrace the increasing possibilities of HTML5 and CSS, and attempt to make their forms more appealing to users.