Don’t let your forms come in between you and your prospects

As he’s been known to do from time to time, Un-Marketing expert Scott Stratten recently posted a rant about something that annoys him…a lot. In this case, he explains why he has little patience for CAPTCHAs on Web forms.

CAPTCHAs are used to prevent automated software from performing actions, such as submitting online forms, through verifying that the submission is coming from a human-being. In theory, it’s a great idea: CAPTCHAs minimize the amount of bad information submitted through your forms. But as Stratten illustrates, they can sometimes create unnecessary barriers.

Now, while CAPTCHAs may still have value in certain situations, one of the points that Stratten is trying to make is that he has little patience for these types of annoyances…and the same goes for your prospects.

Whether you’re using CAPTCHAs or not, your web forms can either invite users to engage with your organization or turn them off completely. In addition to barriers like CAPTCHAs, organizations often turn off prospects through other types of form faux pas. A few common barriers include:

1) asking for way too much information up front,

2) not outlining clearly which information is required vs. optional

3) making it difficult to determine progress or save information on longer forms

4) failing to convey to the prospect what will happen upon submitting the form

In the context of Higher Education, College Web Guy outlined a few other annoyances in a post last year that included:

Designing effective web forms isn’t easy. For many resons. Making things simple, is hard. It takes work. We need to use intelligent writing and design to make the process intuitive and painless.

Keys to crafting our new Admissions Application:

It begins with writing / naming
Employ simple, direct instructions and labels. Avoid internal / academic jargon. As a general rule, this copy shouldn’t get crafted in IT.

Easy questions first..
Starting easy helps build up momentum. The user invests themselves in the process. Get movement going, nd users are more willing to follow through the whole form.

Separate Related Content
Chunk things up. Don’t overwhelm prospective students with giant stretches of input fields. Keep it simple. Make the form a long series of little easy steps. Easy wins. Not 2 or 3 big leaps.

Indicate Progress
Show the user where they are in the process. Step 3 of 7, etc..

Provide sufficient information about information requested.
Probably the number one reason why forms are started but not completed.

Error Messages must be clear, concise.
Help/Tips must be clearly available at times.

Explain Explain Explain
Tell users why certain information is needed. Tell users how to find uncommon information.

As form design expert Luke Wroblewski shows in the following presentation, how you collect information can go a long way in terms of getting prospects to engage with your organization.


Best Practices for Form Design