Online forms are often annoying, poorly designed, and can take a lot of time to create and to fill out — but they’re a key part of running an online business. Forms help you grow your leads and your customers and improve your business processes.
So, how can you get the most out of your online forms?
1. Make sure forms are clear and easy to use.
Put usability first. Prioritize your respondents, i.e., the people who fill out your forms. Think about how you can make that process easy for them. Consider the parts of a form, from the big picture to the small details, such as:
- Overall layout. A form’s structure should make sense as a logical progression, and it should be neatly aligned and organized. Group fields together that are in the same category. Rather than making all answer fields the same width, allow enough space for a typical answer — for example, a phone number won’t take as much space as a mailing address. To keep a long form manageable, split it up into multiple pages.
- Leanness. Forms should be lean. Not only does that mean you should cut out the unnecessary stuff and shorten question length, but you should also consider the types of questions you’re using. For instance, it’s common to use drop-down menus for Date of Birth. However, it’s actually faster to let respondents type into a text field, so they don’t have to scroll through a long list of numbers in order to pick the right one.
But don’t sacrifice clarity for efficiency, because you need the right...
- Wording. Confusion, vagueness, and clutter are effective roadblocks. You want your respondents to sail through the form, not stumble. So pay careful attention to the wording throughout the form. Make it easy to understand. Ask for direct feedback from your customers and clients. Locate the places where they might get stuck, and add hints to clear up any confusion.
2. Consider who your respondents are.
- Be conscious of your audience: who they are, where they are, and what they do. Get to know your respondents’ context. For example, does your business only serve people in the U.S., or do you also have international customers? A Canadian customer might get frustrated with an order form that doesn’t list Canadian provinces until she changes the country at the very end of the address section. And when a customer feels like her time’s being wasted, she’s more likely to leave the form altogether.
- Factor in accessibility. Is the form optimized for screen readers? How about mobile devices? Can you select a radio button by clicking on its label, or do you have to click on the tiny circle to make your choice?
3. Make your forms smart.
Forms should be dynamic: they should change according to your respondent’s needs, and offer help wherever possible. Use conditional logic to hide questions that aren’t relevant. Let people preview their response, so they can confirm and submit it, or go back for editing. Add input validation to catch common errors, like an incorrect email address — and make clear what’s wrong, so the respondent can fix it without playing a guessing game.
4. Track how your form is being filled out.
- For long forms, allow your respondents to save their response and come back later. You’ll be able to look at their incomplete responses and get clued into where they decided to give up.
- Add analytics, so you can see how much time people spend on the form, where they drop out, and which fields trigger a lot of validation errors. Analytics can help you identify the areas that need improvement — and make the right changes to directly impact conversions and revenue. For instance, you might have a web-to-lead form with a high dropout rate. If you’re able to identify and fix the problem within the form, it can make a big difference in sales.
5. Connect your forms to the applications and services you use.
If your data’s left scattered in multiple places, you’ll need a lot of time and resources just to put the pieces together. Integrated forms, however, will free you and your business to do bigger and better things.
Link a contact or inquiry form to your CRM, so you won’t lose any leads and you can spend more time following up with potential customers, and less time on data entry. Automate a short survey after a project or an order is completed, so that a client or customer can give you feedback right away. Harness your database, so the customer doesn’t have to re-enter information you already have, like their name or email. Connect a registration form with your email service, so you can automatically add subscribers to a newsletter list if they opt in.
These five points are what we always keep in mind, and why we designed FormAssembly. We think a tool like ours is a great way to follow these tips and get the benefits of easy-to-use, smart, and connected forms. Get a free 30-day trial at formassembly.com.