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Online forms that ask users to enter data (such as name, address, credit card number, email address, etc.) are an integral part of most web sites today. If you are selling something online, your online form will guide users through the purchase process, collecting credit card and delivery details. If you are using your web site as a lead-generation tool, your forms will request contact details from interested prospects. If you are trying to build your email newsletter subscription list, an online form is the best means of getting them to sign up.
By David Baker
Yet when we talk of "conversion rates" (the percentage of web site visitors who convert to a customer or sales lead), many companies are disappointed with the business that is being done through the web site. They invest in online marketing, and get a lot of targeted visitors to their web site, only to end up disillusioned when too few of these visitors convert to users. Here are a few tips to ensure that your online forms work well:
Don't hide your form. If at all possible, have a prominent link to it on the homepage. Even better, place a "Quick Contact" form on your homepage. This will definitely improve the response rate.
Display the form prominently on product pages and areas that are only visited by users with a definite interest.
Tell users the benefits of filling out the form, and if possible incentivise the process by offering a free white paper or a free consultation.
Forms are often complicated and ask you more than you want to tell. Only ask for the bare details - but of course, get the required information.
Don't design your form around your database, design it around your user. For example, don't use a form field each for First Name and Surname - users find it easier to fill out their name in one field.
If your form needs to be long, break it up into two or more pages - people don't like to scroll down to finish a form. Provide users with a progress indicator to show how many more steps are involved.
Pressing the "Back" button on the form should not erase all of the information that has been filled out on the previous page.
In a drop-down menu, list more popular selections first. If most of your visitors are from Ireland, offer that as the default selection on forms.
State clearly what information is optional and what is required.
Ensure that your off-line sales team treat leads from the web site as they would treat a lead that came in through any other channel. Often, the off-line team don't see web-generated leads as solid prospects.
Provide other contact options for users, such as your telephone number and email address. Some users prefer the less structured approach of an email. Others may prefer to pick up the phone.
Some users make mistakes when filling out a form. If you have a "Form Error" page, you should use this page to give tips on the more common errors that are made when filling out your form.
Test different forms and observe the effect on conversion rates. The form that you are using at the moment probably isn't the optimal one.
Most of the visitors to your web site have at least some intention of doing business with you. Make it easy for them, and they are more likely to convert.