The internet is all about the free flow of information. Much of that information flow happens in the humble web form: a gaggle of fields and a submit button — which if you care about these things at all, probably isn’t labeled “submit.” Here at MINDSCAPE, we spend a lot of time working with web forms. We create forms with one field, and forms with dozens. We sweat the details of things like border style and top padding. So we offer you a few humble tips for improving your web forms that have absolutely nothing to do with CSS attributes and everything to do with dialing down the agony level for your users.
You love your customers. You want to know everything about them: their age, their gender, where they get their mail, and how they found your website in the first place. While your intentions are noble (better customer experience), it also makes you sound a lot like a stalker. So look at the questions you’re asking and delete as many as you possibly can. First, most people don’t love filling out web forms. And by “don’t love,” I mean “hate.” Second, users have legitimate concerns about their privacy. You’ll earn more trust, by asking for less data. Real world example: this week, one of our teams created a user registration form with exactly one field. Uno.
Now that everyone from New Yorkers to villagers in Nepal have super computers and access to all of the world’s information using smart phones, your forms should not be mobile-friendly, they should be mobile-first. Because that’s how most people are going to view — and attempt to complete — your form. That means more padding, larger font sizes, and bigger buttons.
“When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore: it is a decision.” ~ Paulo Coelho
Finally, the single best thing you can do to improve your forms is to reduce the level of confusion and mystery. People are great about completing a simple task, if they clearly understand what to do. However, if it’s not clear, you will be AMAZED at the ways that people can misconstrue a simple question…So use field labels. Use placeholder text. Suggest formatting or better yet, properly format data for the user yourself. And where you can, use descriptions to explain why you’re asking or how submitting the data will help your visitors.
There’s lots more to effective form design; building forms that are brief, clear, and mobile-friendly will go a long way to getting the data — and the trust — of your customers.
Knowing what — and how much — to ask for on a form requires you to know your audience. Our target profile worksheet can help.