Essential and Easy to Follow Rules for Non-Designers that Need Web Forms

Optimized web forms are a great way to make your site simpler for users to navigate and increase the chances they’ll be willing to share their personal information. Small changes can have a major impact on the user experience of the people who visit your site. Keep in mind that while most rules work for most sites, they aren’t always right for every site. Ultimately the most important thing is making sure you use the rules that are going to convince the largest number of people possible to successfully complete the form.

Keep It Simple

There’s no reason to have a bunch of fields you aren’t using on your web forms. They’ll just confuse and frustrate people who visit your site. Instead, keep your fields as simple as possible. If you don’t need a person’s last name, don’t ask for it. Determine what information you actually need and ask for that.

Of course, there’s no reason to ask for so little that you miss out on what you need. Don’t purposefully come up short on information. Just make sure that you’re not asking for a lot of information that you don’t actually need on your forms. It’s common for people to get carried away in case they might want certain information later — but it’s best to just collect the information you need and move on.

Offer a Guide

Sometimes your users need to input information into a form a certain way. For example, if you’re collecting social security numbers, you might want the information to be entered with or without dashes. For times that you need specific entry styles, consider including a note or an image that helps the user understand how to input their information. It will help reduce their frustration and cut down on the number of errors that people experience when they try to use the form.

Error Messages

One of the most frustrating things for a user is an error message that doesn’t actually help a person correct their mistake. If your error messages simply say “Error” then it’s more difficult for the user to find and fix the mistake they made so they can successfully submit the form. Set up your form so that useful, specific error messages are returned.

For example, if a user misses a field and can’t submit the form, specify exactly which field they’ve missed. If the information in an entry is incorrect in some way, specify how it’s incorrect. Doing so will help the user to finish the form and prevent them from becoming annoyed and deciding not to submit it.

Choose Professional Options

If you aren’t a web designer, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. There’s no reason to start from scratch when there are plenty of WordPress forms that are already designed and ready to be deployed to gather information from your users. Sometimes taking a shortcut and choosing a premade form will help your site look more professional and well-designed than making something completely original by yourself. Having a resource for web form design can also help you if you decide to do A/B testing to determine which version of a form returns more results. Creating new forms with a template is always much easier than starting from scratch.

Consider Single Column Design

While there are times when more than one column is appropriate, in general it’s best to stick with a single column if you can. It helps people spend less time submitting the form. A study done by CXL Institute found that people completed a linear, single-column form 15.4 seconds faster than a multi-column form.

There are some notable exceptions to this such as questions like a birthdate, when multiple options should be intuitively displayed on one line. In general, though, your form is going to be more efficient if it’s presented in a single-column format.

Offer a Reward

Incorporating some type of reward into the design of your form might encourage more people to fill it out. For example, a free e-book can help convince otherwise reluctant users to sign up and hand over their personal information. If you have something to offer, remind the user of that in the heading of the form. It might help spur them on to complete it.

If you aren’t giving away a promotional freebie, including a reminder in the heading about what the person is signing up for and why might help provide the same rewarding feeling.

Less Is More

When people have to click more, they’re less likely to use something. This was shown when Microsoft changed the way Windows shut down so that people had to click three times instead of once. Less people shut down their computers because of what amounted to an extra second or two of work.

When you have the option to use either a drop-down menu or clickable buttons, consider using the buttons. It will give users less to do to complete your form and make the entire thing more intuitive. Everything you can do to reduce the amount of time and increase the ease of the form will pay off in the number of forms completed.

Rethink Captchas

At the end of the day, people are less likely to submit your form if it’s difficult to complete. One unexpected thing that might prevent a user from submitting their information to you is a captcha which is designed to determine whether a request is coming from a human. It might help cut down on spam, but you could also lose legitimate respondents by making it too difficult for them to finish. Stanford University did a study that found many people have a legitimately hard time completing captchas.

Following a few of these rules as you design your web form should help make it more user-friendly and therefore more likely to be completed. Much like choosing the right web platform, choosing the right web form design is a small thing that can return big results.