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Form Optimisation

We recently blogged about the need to have sex as a required field in a sign up form. If you followed the advice, you may have chosen to remove Dr as a field, speeding up the sign up process and in turn increasing the conversion rate.

The downside to this, as mentioned, is that you may put off Doctors from completing your form, or at least give them a slightly poorer impression of your business. Perhaps this kind of accommodation is only important if you expect many Doctors to sign up to your product or service – maybe you are Pharmaceutical industry journal, or an academic online bookshop, or a social networking website for time lords.

But what if inclusion and that first impression were incredibly important to your business and its ethos? If the happiness of your potential customers is paramount, then why stop at including Dr as an option; what if Professors, or even knighted individuals were to attempt to complete your form?

One website has a much lengthier list of titles:

Titles 1

Counsellors (Cllr), Nuns, Lords and Ladies can all select their appropriate titles on this sign up page. A tad too comprehensive, I hear you ask? Well, British Airways disagree, and seem to have taken this thought to its natural, if extreme, conclusion, with the largest selection of titles I have seen on a form.

Titles 2

Are you a Rabbi, Dame, Captain, Baroness or Reverend? Not a problem, there is an option for that.

‘The Right Honourable’ is also included, which, after a Google search, I found to include Cabinet members, Earls, The Lord Mayor of London, the Prime Minister and Governor General of Canada. A relatively small subset of the population, but perhaps understandable.

Viscounts and Viscountesses are also welcome. I did not know what these were either. Apparently it falls between Baron and Count (which is not included) in the order of noble ranks. How many Viscounts can there possibly be in the UK I hear you cry? Well, I checked that, too. There are 131 in total across the UK. Offend them at your peril.

So clearly a policy of absolute inclusiveness has been adopted at BA, but to this I say where the options for Marquess, Archduke, Emperor, Brigadier, Tsar, Judge or Earl? And what if the Pope should want to fly BA? For him, some extra width would be needed in the drop down box. His full title is Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the servants of God. I wonder if that title is on his passport.

Tongue in cheek yes, but I think there is a lesson to be learnt. Unless you reasonably expect those with a particular title to use your service, then perhaps sticking to the basic list of titles is best from a usability point of view. Take easy jet’s options:

Titles 3 - short

As we mentioned, all of the options above can be broken down into the above four options. The other approach is simply to ask whether the user is male or female (and possibly other) and dispense with titles altogether. In that instance, you can simply refer to your registered user by their first name in future correspondence, and it is unlikely that most will take offense.

If you happen to own Vatican City Airways, ignore this advice completely.