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Best practices for website forms in 2017

So we’ve talked about the importance of adding forms to your site but doing them well is a whole ‘nother story. Here are some tips on the best practices for your site’s forms in 2017.

Keep it simple

Fewer, specific questions are better. It’s easy to want to ask people all of the things beforehand but think about your own experiences – are you likely to fill out a form that asks for too many things?

No. You’re going to click away or be perturbed that this company wants so much information from you, like your email address and phone number and social security number and blood type.

There are occasions when longer forms can be more beneficial. If the person filling out the form is getting something in return, like a free download, you may want to ask more questions from them. Or if you are in a very specific niche and it benefits you to only spend time on highly qualified people, longer can be better.

But for the most part, most companies ought to err on the side of simple, short forms with clear labels.

Don’t offer many open-ended questions

Or, otherwise said, always try to provide drop-down fields or radio button options whenever possible. Make it easier for people to select an option (or include “Other”) so they don’t have to spend too much time thinking before submitting the form.

This is good for them and for you. For them, it keeps the requirements manageable to filling out the form. For you, it helps you keep an organized database of information on your form submissions.

Include a reCATPCHA

I don’t care what blogs about user interface and experience say. Or that one company you talked with that said don’t include one because it may lower the number of submissions.

Add a reCAPTCHA to spare yourself an onslaught of spam unhappiness. It’s free, courtesy Google.

Don’t have inline text within the form fields

This only gets confusing. Always have your text above the field so people can refer back to what they need to be providing. Too many forms and even login fields have this these days.

For example (using NinjaForms) – you want the label to be clear to the user and you want the position to be above the text box, not inline.

Provide specific error messages

Don’t make them guess about what they did incorrectly. Think about the times where you’ve tried to fill out a form and it’s said something was incomplete or incorrect – make sure you’ve got feedback here on what might have gone awry.

Telephone numbers, for example, cause plenty of snags. If you want them in a particular format, then you better state that. Same thing goes for when people are creating a password. Make sure the requirements are listed out.

Use your own voice

On that note – use your own voice with your forms. I mean, you still want to make it coherent. But if you can add some customization to it and provide context for what the form will result in, you may get better follow-through.

It doesn’t take much time to adjust the language and offer a very brief, 1-2 sentence overview before the form on what the person filling it out will receive.

Have a thank-you page and a thank-you email prepared

You want your thank-you submission to be a separate page, ideally, so that you can track it within Google Analytics as a Goal. Otherwise, you can only tell when people just visit the page itself but not necessarily when they’ve followed through.

And you want to know that follow-through so you can get key information about them that the form won’t provide – for example, how did they get to your site? How long were on the site? Where were they most likely to come from on your site in order to get to your form?

For a thank-you email, stick with the expectations you set. If you have an auto-email saying, “Thanks for contacting us! We’ll follow up in 48 hours – we appreciate your message and your business!” then you damn well better follow up in 48 hours.

We recommend using a marketing automation tool within your email service provider, like MailChimp or Hatchbuck if you’re a small business, to send these messages so people receive confirmation that they’ve filled out your form.

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