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Start With Why For Better Form Design

Conversion Rate Optimisation

When you’re at the back-end designing information request forms for prospective students, it’s all too easy to focus on the technicalities of your work.  If their needs are low on your list of priorities it’s time to walk a mile in their shoes to see what more you could do to help them complete your form.

The Psychology Of Assent

Getting people to complete your university information request form is all about compliance.  You need potential students to put the right information in the right fields, often in the right order.

In this case there’s a strong driver to do this and do it right.  Only by giving you the correct information will they achieve their end-goal: your information pack.

But, unless your form analytics show a perfect completion rate, there’s something stopping all your additional information request forms from being submitted.  Understanding how your future students feel and which fields turn them off is a great starting point to up completions.  

How Does Your User Feel?

UX often focuses on data and misses the emotional side of form design so, instead of considering the organisation’s perspective, begin with your customer’s point of view.

As a soon-to-be student on the next step of their journey in life, your user is likely to feel both excited and nervous.  While the anticipation drives them to take action and complete your form, it can also manifest as impatience making shorter form length and fewer fields critical. Make it too difficult and your enthusiastic student could buck and run.  

Now the nerves.  For some, nervousness could translate into caution, particularly when asked to part with personal details.  In fact, research shows that although people regularly give up their personal details, they don’t always feel confident about how this data is stored or used.

This means that a significant proportion of people are so loathe to part with their data that they provide incorrect details, dirtying your database.

How Feelings Drive Action

Research by Marketing Week found that just over a third of people, sometimes, mostly or always provide incorrect address, date of birth and email address.

Source: Marketing Week

The research also shows that nearly one-third of people give a fake phone number and even a made-up name. In 76% of cases, the reason for not providing correct information is that the user believes the information to be unnecessary.  And, in 75% of cases, it’s because they don’t want the firm to market to them.

Explain Away Concerns

In the case of university information request forms, it’s unlikely someone will provide an incorrect email or mailing address because they want to receive your online information pack or printed brochure.  This reciprocity puts you at an advantage: they give you their details, you send something in return.

However, you’re relying on potential students knowing how you will send the information.  If they don’t know whether it will be by email or post, it could lead them to provide fake details in the exact category where they need to be accurate.

Using clear, short, in-form messaging that explains why you need the information, next to the relevant field, will enhance the accuracy of the data you receive and help prevent form drop-out.  

By conversationally explaining why information is required, using the right tone of voice for your institution, you can take form filling from a necessary evil to an enjoyable, engaging experience.  Which is exactly what you want when reassuring nervous students you’d like to attract.

From my work with form analytics, I would suggest a number of ways to improve your information request form completion rates and the quality of the data you receive.

Only Ask For A Phone Number If You Really Need It

People are increasingly concerned over privacy and information security. While phone number is commonly requested, it’s one of the pieces of personal information people least like giving out.  HubSpot analysed over 40,000 landing pages and found that asking for a phone number killed conversion rates.

 Source: HubSpot

And can you blame people? Nobody enjoys having a pushy sales person call them up and put them under pressure.  

Some of the 51 university information request forms I analysed included phone number as an optional field indicating that it isn’t required.  A/B testing the inclusion of phone number with form analytics will help you decide what works best for your prospects.  

Marketing Opt-Out

As the first graph in this article shows, people clearly don’t want to be marketed to.  This means it could be worth giving your customer the choice to opt out of future marketing.  While this may feel contradictory to wider organisational goals, it could make a big difference in terms of form completion.  

Analysing your form’s performance will reveal at which stage you’re losing potential students.  In the example shown below, if students are getting to step three of three to be confronted with a marketing message but no opt-out, this could prevent them from hitting ‘submit’.  

Source: West Governors University

Installing a simple tick box for mailing opt-outs, or giving people the option to be contacted only in relation to their interest in your course, could make a big difference to your completion rates.  Why not A/B test a few different approaches to see what works best for you?

Build Your Form’s Authority

Nervous students need to feel like they’re submitting their information to a trustworthy organisation.  You know you’re reputable, but do they?  Branding your form, keeping your university or college logo visible and providing a slick experience can make a potential student feel more comfortable.  While this might be more work and may reduce your marketing mailing list, it could pay form completion dividends.

Put The Prize In Front Of Their Eyes

If your response to a future student’s information request is to send out a fantastic looking brochure, take a tip from online shopping businesses and dangle the prize in front of them.  Include an image to the side of the form and add commentary to explain what prospective students will receive.  Combining visuals with words will motivate budding academics to complete and submit your form .

Don’t have a brochure?  Use inspiring imagery, as in the Abraham Lincoln University example below, to conjure up a sense of what it will be like to study with you.

 Source: Abraham Lincoln University

Taking a fresh look at your information request form solely from the perspective of a potential student gives you added insight into improving your form’s UX.  Combine an intuitive, common sense approach with form analytics and watch your form completion rates soar.