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Got Forms? Here’s How to Get the Most Out of Them.

Make sure your prospects complete that form!

Here’s a brain-teaser for you: What do we do on the internet nearly every day — sometimes several times in one day?

(Hint: the answer should not be “stalk an ex’s Facebook profile.” If it is, you may want to move on, already.)

Okay, give up?

The answer, as you’ve probably already gathered from the title of this post, is use forms.

Think about it: whenever we make a purchase, book a flight, subscribe to a newsletter, or even log in to our email, we are filling out forms. Some are short, some are long. They range from the fun (like voting in a poll for the top sports play of the week) to the serious (taxes, anyone?). But forms are a incredibly important part of our average online user experience, and if you’re one of the folks behind a form — say, a business consultant who’s trying to get prospects to convert on a request for a quote — then you’d do well to pay attention to best practices.

To that end, I bring you our tips to optimize forms.

Keep it simple. Strip your form down to just the necessary elements. Ask only for basic information up-front — you can always request more later in a follow-up email or call. Plus, simplified layouts improve speed and eliminate confusion for the prospect.

Think small. Don’t take up a lot of space on a page. Try to put more than one form element on a line when possible.

Choose your placement wisely. Nobody’s going to find a form buried deep in your footer, or on a secondary or tertiary page. Aim to put your lead form at the top of a sidebar or even in the header. Keeping your form near the top of your web page, or “above the fold,” guarantees that more prospects will see it — and complete it.

Leave the magic tricks at home. At some point each of us has filled out a form that asks, “Check here if you would not like to be subscribed to our newsletter.” Funny choice of words. You might get the sense that they’re trying to confuse you, right? Because if you read carefully, you’ll realize you’re being required to manually opt out of something that you never asked to receive in the first place. Don’t do this to your prospects. It’s no way to establish a relationship with someone. Use clear, concise language, and don’t resort to sleights of hand in order to get someone on your mailing list.

Leave it optional. Sure, you could make “What was the make and model of the first car your father drove?” a required question on your form, but why? People are wary of those who fish for too much information. Make sure only the truly essential form information — say, name and phone number — is required, and leave everything else optional. Heavy-handedness won’t earn anyone’s trust.

Keep it between yourselves. Speaking of trust, consider using a privacy statement such as “We never share your information,” or “We respect your right to privacy,” and then make sure to honor that statement. In the ongoing quest to generate conversions, nothing goes further than confidence and reassurance.

Break it up. If your form absolutely needs to be longer, break it into pages. Put 2-4 questions on each page. Chopping your form into smaller, more easily digested chunks allows prospects to stay focused and decreases their chances of making a mistake — while increasing their likelihood of actually finish the form.

Make ’em a good offer. What can you provide in exchange for a prospect filling out your form? A free quote, a chance to win a contest, or 20% off a future order? Be specific. Folks will be a lot more inclined to complete your form if they know there’s a reward waiting on the other side.

Design with conversion in mind. Fascinatingly, blue and orange buttons on forms are more likely to attract clicks. Make your buttons big enough to be noticed, but not so big they detract attention from the important stuff. And don’t forget to reiterate your offer on the button itself — words like “Get a free quote now!” will get more attention than the generic “Click here” or “Submit.”

Avoid CAPTCHA! There’s nothing like finishing filling out a form and then having to jump through hoops trying to decipher a garbled mess in order to prove you’re not a robot. Forget about potential spam — there are better ways to deal with that than CAPTCHA! (and that’s a discussion better suited for a wholly separate post). If you want prospects to complete your form — and you do, or you wouldn’t have a form, right? — then try your level best not to irritate them.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be a form pro in no time. Let us know if we can help!

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