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Online Forms: Short and sweet, please.

Conversion Rate Optimisation

When it comes to increasing conversions on your web forms, there is one rule above all; the shorter, the better.

Website owners and designers should always remember that a form is an interruption in a journey to achieve some other goal. Other than people like me, not many users fill out a form for the sake of it, and the longer the form, the bigger the obstruction.

As Luke Wroblewski (who quite literally wrote the book on web form design) says ‘every question you ask someone within a Web form forces them to decide what you are asking, come up with an answer, and then enter their answer into the affordance (form input) you have provided. Removing a question removes all of these considerations.’

So for each question that you ask there is a three stage thought process that goes into entering into your form. Though most of us will do this in a matter of seconds, this amount of time is still infinitely more than if the question had not been asked. The amount of time spent in this process is also increased if it is not immediately apparent what you are asking.

Take the example of Expedia. In their booking form, there was an optional field on the site under ‘Name’, which was ‘Company’. This field was confusing some customers, who filled out the ‘Company’ field with their bank name and then went on to enter the address of their bank, rather than their home address, in the address field. When it came to the address verification to process the credit card information, it failed because it was not the registered address of credit card holder. So Expedia’s response was to remove that optional field. The result? Form completion increased, leading to an extra $12 million dollars in profit a year.

There must therefore be absolute clarity in what you are asking your users to input. There is also a secondary thought process that your users may go through, and this is why you are asking for certain information, especially if it does not seem immediately relevant to what the user is trying to achieve.

For instance, if a user is asked their mobile number in the process of signing up, then the user may ask themselves a series of questions about why this information is needed. Are you going to send them marketing texts? Will you pass on their phone number to third parties? Or is it just so you can contact them in case of an order change?

Pets at home

Take the above sign up form on a popular pet website. They get bonus points for explaining why they ask for a phone number, but negative marks for asking for a date of birth without letting the user know why. What are they going to use this information for? Is it possible that a third party could get hold of this information in conjunction with my card details and use them for nefarious means? Probably not, but it would hurt to either explain why they are asking for this information. The eagle eyed among you will also notice that is not a required field, so why not just dispense with it completely?

What are the consequences of asking for less information, other than increased conversion on your forms? Surely the quality of the conversions will be reduced? Well, not necessarily. Imagescape reduced their Contact Us form from 11 fields down to 4, and saw a 120% increase in submitted forms. You can find the full report here, which also states that the quality of the conversions was not affected by removing these fields. If you feel an overwhelming urge to get a fuller picture of your registered users, then you can always ask for this information at a later stage. Social networking sites do this regularly, asking for ‘top ups’ in information each time you login, or prompting you to complete your online profile.

So when considering your form, always keep sight of what your users will be thinking as they enter details into the form. If the information is not completely necessary for you as a business immediately or you cannot give your users a compelling reason to provide the information, get rid of it.