Does your web form scare your customers?

Forms are everywhere online and it’s difficult to think of any industry that doesn’t require a form to be completed in order for a transaction to take place. Whether it’s registration, checkout or login forms, many organisations rely on users filling out a form in order to survive and thrive. 

You won’t receive many compliments from your customers for a well-designed form and if you do it well, no one is likely to notice. However, if you get it wrong you could potentially lose customers and in some cases even harm your business reputation.

Think of the physical checkout process in a global retail store. They know that customers won’t tolerate long lines, slow service or any unfriendliness, so they have invested money in staff training and store design, in order to make sure their customers have a positive experience. Online, the friendly staff and inviting physical environment are replaced with a series of commands, code and copy, but this checkout experience requires the same amount of attention to detail. Using best design practices and carefully tailored language, it’s possible to ensure that the user has the same high standard of experience online as they do in store.

Having well designed forms can be rewarding for a business. It can make transactions more seamless, reduce abandonment and improve the user’s perception of your company. Although having a team of experts behind you is important when designing webforms, there are things you can do that don't require big budgets or a mass of technical knowledge. Below are some small things that can make a big difference to your forms.

1.     Make your forms easy to digest:

In research carried out by Baymard Institute, it was discovered that long or complicated checkout processes are one of the top reasons for checkout abandonment. 

What to do:

  • Only ask for the information you need and don't include optional or inessential questions. If it’s optional, it’s not important. 

  • If you must include an optional question, give the user a choice to skip it by indicating the field is optional. The best practice is to add (optional) next to the field label.

  • Start with easy questions and leave the difficult ones to the end. Robert Cialdini’s principle of consistency states that if an initial commitment to a task has been made by a person, they are more likely to finish what they started. So make it easy for your users to begin.
  • Group related fields together under umbrella headings and if your form is long, split it up into several steps. For example: Step 1 - Personal information, Step 2 - Payment. This will make your form easier to digest.

form steps

2.     Make your forms conversational:

Much like the checkout process in a retail store is a conversation with a staff member, a form is a conversation between you and the user. Cambridge dictionary defines conversation as “talk between two or more people in which thoughts, feelings, and ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered, or news and information is exchanged”. If you are only asking for information and not telling the user anything in return, the transaction can feel more like an interrogation and not a conversation. Focus on achieving the below and you can establish a rapport with your users, help reduce errors, and in turn leave your users with positive emotions.

What to do:

  • Tell the user how many steps are in your webform and what step they are currently on if your form spans over several pages. This will help guide the user through the process and set clear fill-out time expectations, reducing the chance of negative emotions being evoked by a lengthy process.

  • Explain to your users why you need sensitive information such as phone numbers, addresses and birthday. People can have privacy concerns when being forced to provide such information, which can contribute to them abandoning your web form. If you explain why you need it, your users will be more inclined to share it.

  • Let the user know what the field input requirements are in advance. For example, what the password rules are. This will help reduce errors and in turn create a more positive experience.
  • Don't use jargon and keep sentences short and concise. Keep your questions and explanations to the point, and don't use industry-specific terms because your users are not likely to be experts in your field.
  • Get insight by running a user test session. Setting up a user test is not difficult and can provide you with valuable insights. You know your business inside out, but your user is new to it. What questions do they have when filling out your web form? Do they understand what they are signing up to? What information are they struggling to find? You can then address these issues in your form update.

password requirements screen

3.     Improve your call to action buttons:

A well written call to action (CTA) should not only tell the user what they need to do, it should also tell them why they should do it, and where they are going after they click the button.

What to do:

  • Get creative with your copy. Where appropriate, try to replace words like ‘Submit’, ‘Next’ or ‘Continue’ with descriptive labels for your buttons. For example, a registration form could have ‘Start your new plan today’ instead of ‘Submit’ as the call to action. This new copy confirms to the user what happens next and gives them a feeling of excitement for the future.
  • Provide detail where possible. Instead of a button that reads ‘Pay now’, add the price: 'Pay now - £14.00’. Users worry about add-ons sneaking into their baskets and reiterating the price they are paying will make the user more confident in clicking that button. Doing this will also make your company seem more reliable in their mind.
  • Set up an A/B test. Do you have more than one idea for your CTA copy and want to know which one will generate the most conversions? A/B testing is a way of comparing two variables against each other in order to find out which is more effective. Setting up an A/B test is easy and you don't need a budget for it.

Payment call to action example

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