Web forms are still the most important parts of the website when it comes to actually earning money with it. Whether it’s
- contact forms
- checkout forms
- opt-in forms
or other submission forms,
an under-performing user experience leads to fewer conversions.
There are several key areas where most forms can still be improved.
Question: which part of a business website is the most important one?
- the logo
- the homepage
- the landing page
- the form
Of course this post isn’t called “make your logo bigger to enlarge your ego successfully”.
It should be “make the form bigger!” Business websites are about the forms. You can forget the logo altogether, have an empty homepage and no dedicated landing pages, but when you have proper forms your site will work and make money.
When you clicked anywhere on the form, for example, it would send a mail to me. Depending what you selected, the text would change in one or the other form input. Sometimes a text area would start typing text on its own. Such tricks were meant to disturb otherwise passive users who assumed to be invisible spectators.
Some people were really scared once they got a message from me replying to the one they’ve sent unknowingly.
People are still scared of entering potentially private information into forms and they are correct when they assume it might be a hazard. I personally heard of programmers scanning user data based on things like age, gender and yearly income. That was a guy working on a banking site. He was looking for a wife. He could have been a burglar too or a kidnapper.
No forms are the best forms
People hate forms. People hate print forms and they hate online forms even more. For the prototypical user, no forms are the best forms. Sadly we are still in the stone age of the Web. Interactivity is very difficult and forms are often the only way to connect with your audience.
Let’s try to find a compromise: fewer forms and form elements are better forms.
A sign up form, for example, that asks visitors for their mail address only will perform better than the one asking for both the mail and the name. It’s not just that people do not want to give you more information.
Filling in forms is tedious. You have to use the keyboard or even worse on mobile, a virtual one. Many visitors just superficially skim your site so a form is a huge interruption. They click here and there without a real goal so asking them to fill in a form is a real break.
Pop up forms and other annoying workarounds
What happens when the most important part of a website has been forgotten while it was designed and built? When web designers think of websites, they rarely consider the actual real life purpose of them: earning money.
Average web designers assume that showing off your work or creating content for its own sake is the most important thing.
Designers treat websites like print publications where attracting readers and informing them are everything.
On the Web, it’s different. A website that makes the visitor go away without performing any meaningful action benefiting the website owner is bound to fail in the business sense.
- right away
- on top
- throughout the site.
How many such websites do you know? What you probably have seen are annoying websites that throw overlay forms or other pop ups in your face when you visit them or when you scroll a bit.
You need to design sites around their goals like getting subscriptions or actual sales.
Many so-called growth hacking techniques are dealing with those shortcomings. They often try to fix websites that do not convert visitors. Whenever these techniques get implemented after the website has launched, they are solely workarounds. You end up with sites that hide the content and force you to sign up before you even can see why.
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria
Are you from Afghanistan, Albania or Algeria? Me neither. I don’t mean to be eurocentric. Also note that Albania actually is in Europe (north of Greece). All three countries have been torn by war and dictatorships for many decades.
Poverty and even illiteracy prevent most people to become your customers. Yet most forms for registering ask us to select a country we are from by starting with A and suggesting these and other irrelevant nations for your business.
Why not starting the list with the actually most relevant ones? I’d suggest something like:
for an English language site with worldwide shipping or digital products. You know better where your audiences and markets are at. They are most probably not in Afghanistan, Albania or Algeria.
Have you ever noticed how you have to scroll through dozens of exotic nations on seemingly never-ending so-called “drop down menus”?
I sometimes think they are called “drop down” because you wish the web designer who made you use them would drop down on the floor and beg you for forgiveness. They are officially awful for both users and businesses! Usability expert Jakob Nielsen has explained almost 15 years ago that they only annoy users.
Yes, you can preselect country by checking the IP of the visitor or by checking his whereabouts based on the address s/he used to sign up. That’s, of course, only a start.
For example, PayPal suggests Germany as the first option when I want to write an invoice. I live in Germany but I use PayPal for my international clients all over the world including America, Asia and Europe of course. Most of them are not in Germany.
Note that PayPal doesn’t seem to serve people in Afghanistan at all. This is also a mistake. What about the soldiers, private contractors and civil personnel working over there? You see that I use the PayPal interface in English so it would be logical to suggest English speaking countries like the USA and UK first again.
13 ways of looking at a birth-date
Why asking somebody for their date of birth? The only viable reason is to find out whether that person is of legal age to do business with you. “Are you 13 or above? ” would be more appropriate. There are very few other legitimate reasons to ask someone for the date of birth.
To be honest I can’t come up with one from the top of my head. The most likely one is that you’re some kind of amateur NSA secret agent or data collector. No, I don’t want to receive your spam on my birthday.
Don’t ask people for their birth-date for privacy and security reasons.
Anybody with an IQ above 80 can steal your identity online or on the phone when they know your birth-date. That’s why giving it away to every online service just for kicks is a huge mistake. By asking for a birth-date you already show that your site is not trustworthy and you ostracize web-savvy visitors.
Creative Commons image by Bill Sutton.