There is no question that improving the forms on your website can improve your conversion rate. In fact, Gavin Doolan, of the Google analytics team, did a wonderful job explaining the basics concepts needed to improve form conversion rates. However, what do the forms that exist in the “wild” tell your visitors about you?

Does it say you care about your visitor? Your sales team? Your legal department? No one?

This past week one of my MarketMotive conversion optimization students sent me an example of a form she wanted to avoid as soon as she saw it as part of one of her assignments. Take a look at it and think about what issues you see with this form:

Let’s imagine the conversation in your visitor’s head.

“This form is a little hard to read!”

“Are they trying to hide something?

“Why do they need my job title?”

“A community screen name, why do I need one of these? I don’t want to join a community I just want to try out the software.”

“There are different types of accounts, let me think about what I might need.”

What do you think the odds are that this person is going to complete this form?

So what went wrong?

First avoid all light gray type on a white background, especially with a smaller font type. Your designer might think it looks nice, but I am wondering what are you trying to hide. Give them some contrast please!

If everything is required only highlight any optional fields.

Design the form so that it is in one column not two. It tends to convert visitors better and is a more natural experience.

Wait till later in the process to engage them in discussions they are not ready for like joining a community, or what type of account they may need. You are forcing them to make a decision and process information before they are ready to. Get them through the process as frictionless as possible. It wasn’t in the sales flow before the signup and the first place it showed up was in this first step of the signup process.

There has been some great analysis on how to improve your forms. Follow these guidelines and people might actually think you care about the visitor and your conversion rates may improve:

  • Use a simple vertical layout and vertical aligned labels where possible
  • If vertical aligned labels are not possible, use bold left-aligned labels
  • When more than one field is placed on a line, ensure that they are designed to look like a single piece of information
  • Emphasize the headers if you want users to read them
  • If optional fields are needed, make them clear instead of using asterisks for mandatory fields
  • Use single field for numbers or postcodes, allow input in various forms
  • Let users focus on their task and avoid distractions
  • Use real time feedback carefully
  • If possible, place tips at the side of the relevant fields
  • Provide users with a progress indicator showing them the steps involved to complete the form

Here is an example of one of my favorite sign up forms. What does this form tell you about the company you are considering doing business with?