by Doug

13/01/2009

Internet Marketing

Getting the Forms Right

Let’s talk about forms.

Virtually all sites have them. Forms to register, forms to submit, forms to buy, forms to upload, forms about forms! They are a key part of your sites processes and are a point of direct interaction with your clients.

However, they are completely neglected. Budgets are spent on more obvious areas with very little invested in the site forms.

Some scenarios (all of which are real, most of which were me!):-

  1. You’re browsing the web for a new radio, you find the product you’re after on a great looking site that ticks all the boxes. You decide to purchase. You then click checkout only to be shocked by a lengthy registration form that asks a bunch of irrelevant question. My favourite has to be the “where did you find us?” drop downs. Is it just me that clicks a random thing on the list?!
  2. You’re on another great site, you decide to register. The forms long and a bit of a pain but you persevere. You click submit only to be returned to the same screen that’s now covered in red asterix’s demanding that you fill out every field. You go through this process a couple of times before giving up and leaving.
  3. Even worse – you’ve filled out the form but can’t find the submit/book/purchase button (trust me, this happens!).
  4. You’ve filled out a form, get to the bottom to find a “captcha” field, your eyes aren’t great, and you can’t quite make out the code so you try unsuccessfully a couple of times before giving up./li>
  5. You’ve decided to make a purchase and click checkout, arrive at the form only to find that as a result of a toolbar plugins “auto-fill” function you can’t read what you’re entering into the boxes and give up.
  6. You arrive on a form that’s riddled with browser bugs preventing you from clicking on dropdowns or other areas. As much as you may like to you can’t actually submit the form
  7. You fill out a form, click submit, only to be returned to the same form except now it’s empty and there is no indication that the submission was successful. Was the data submitted? Who knows! Will you try again/proceed? Not likely.
  8. Worst case scenario – you fill out a form, hit submit only to be presented with a page of code errors!
  9. The list goes on. What’s worse is that we find that website owners don’t realise they have a problem with a form until an actual visitor to their site highlights it to them.

    If you work on the basis that the majority of people will simply move onto another site when they encounter a problem, it’s very likely that by the time somebody tells the site owner about the problem, they have already missed out on a considerable chunk of sales/enquiries.

    To avoid this, it’s imperative that you do things – firstly make sure you have extensively tested your form/s, secondly make sure you are tracking your form using your analytics system.

    We’ve done a lot of form optimisation recently and tested our newly optimised forms back to back with the original. The results are often dramatic with improvements in fill rate exceeding 80%. Translate that into sales or enquiries and you’re looking at a relatively small job that delivers significant improvements to your bottom line.

    My advice is simple, take 5 minutes to have a good look at the forms on your site. Try to imagine it’s the first time you’ve seen them, would you fill them out?

    Example: Elite Courier Ltd

    Who are they

    Elite Courier Ltd is a carbon neutral courier company that provides a range of delivery services including same day and overnight couriers and also international air freight services.

    The problem

    After having a look at the data in Google Analytics it was obvious that visitors were navigating as far as the form but few were taking the time to complete it. The original form (click here) was overly long, unattractive, had a less than encouraging submit button and every field was compulsory.

    The Solution

    The form was completely re-designed (click here). The replacement was greatly simplified, far clearer, featured clear privacy reassurances and had a larger clearer submit button.

    The Result
    The number of visitors completing the form increased by 103%.

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