Forms, Forms, Forms

May 5, 2011

Form Optimization Tips – Focus on the Fields That Matter
By Adam Greco

May Marketing Madness Conversion Week, Post #5

People hate forms…let me say that again…People hate forms! Having spent a few years working at one of the most well-known lead generation sites in the world, I have learned everything there is to know about forms. Given how easily accessible/shareable personal data has become on the Internet, people have become extremely greedy with their personal information.

Less Is More

One of the biggest mistakes website owners make is asking for too much information. If you were single and saw a groovy person across the bar, would you go up to them and ask them for their name, address, phone number and e-mail address the minute you said hello? Of course not! They would think you are a stalker! Then why are you doing that online? Like in the bar, sales is about building relationships – the more I get to know about you and like you, the more open I am to giving you my information.

The Ugly Truth

Here is a real-life story to show you how bad it is out there. For one website I worked with, we noticed that the most prevalent scenario was that visitors were clicking the “Form Submit” button without filling out any fields. We weren’t exactly sure why they were doing this so we implemented ClickTale on the form so we could watch people exhibiting this behavior and make sure it was really happening! Sure enough, we saw it over and over again. Then we did a few surveys asking why people were doing this and, finally, someone summarized it for us by saying, “By clicking the submit button, I can see which fields are truly required and only fill out those fields…” Pretty sneaky huh?

Don’t Be Lazy!

The ironic thing is that it is usually the companies that do the least with the data collected that ask for the most number of form fields to be filled out. The primary reasons for asking for information should be so that you can give your prospects something in return. For example, “if you give me your e-mail address, we can send you a cool white paper that would normally cost you money to read” or “if you have filled out a form for Product X, we will make your next visit more meaningful by tailoring it to your stated needs”.

But, the way I see it, don’t ask me which of your products I am interested in when you should be able to see this based upon what pages on your website I am viewing, what search keyword brought me to your website or what phrases I have searched for while on your website. Asking in a form field just makes me think you are lazy or stupid and those are not qualities I look for in a company/vendor!

Investigative Work Is Important

The rule of thumb is that you lose a decent amount of people for every field that you ask for. Therefore, you should ask yourself this question for each form field: Is having [FAX NUMBER] on this form important enough to me that I am willing to lose [X]% of the total population that views this form? Obviously, you should be doing testing to see which fields cause people to abandon as each website form and audience is different. You should also investigate cool tools like DemandBase which can give you clues to the type of person who is currently viewing a form. For example, if you can already tell it is someone from a large pharmaceutical company on your site, why ask for Industry? If you aren’t 100% confident, at least pre-populate the form with the Industry in hopes you are right and save the user a step!

Put Yourself In the Shoes of Your Prospects

As always, common sense wins out…Try filling out your own forms or ask a family friend to do it and put yourself in the shoes of your prospects. Only ask for what you really need and make sure there is a value trade-off for every field on the form…

This post is one out of ClickTale’s month long May Marketing Madness series. Each of our daily posts will highlight and explain today’s best practices, useful tips and smart tools to measure and improve your online business performance. This week’s theme is conversion. Make sure to stay tuned in for more!

About the Author

Adam Greco is a longstanding member of the web analytics community who has consulted with hundreds of clients across every industry vertical. Mr. Greco began his web analytics career managing the website for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, became one of the founders of the Omniture Consulting group, and was most recently Senior Director of Web Analytics at Adam is now the Senior Partner of Web Analytics Demystified.

Related posts:

  1. 5 Simple Ways To Reassure Customers and Encourage Conversions
  2. Guarantee Best Practices To Gain Your Customers’ Trust
  3. May Marketing Madness Kickoff!
  4. 600% Increase in Form Conversion – A Case Study


  1. Jeff Says:
    May 5th, 2011 at 11:59 am

    What is your favorite way to discover the form fields at which the greatest friction is encountered?

    In my analysis, we show that the forms are not always filled out in order, making it difficult to illustrate a ‘funnel’ or ‘path’ for form filling.

  2. Talya Rachel Judovits Says:
    May 5th, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    We like to use Form Analytics…its an easy way to understand and see exactly how visitors are filling out your forms…and its available for free accounts too.

  3. May Marketing Madness Recap | Analytics Expert Blog Says:
    June 1st, 2011 at 10:25 am

    [...] Adam Greco [...]

  4. Omniture Form Analysis Pitfalls – How to Avoid and Optimize | Keystone Solutions – The Community Says:
    August 4th, 2011 at 8:02 am

    [...] the “optimize your form” step by using your God-given intelligence. Use common sense. Think like a user: keep forms simple and easy to use. Simply running a plugin or tool will do nothing to improve your forms- remember, brains are more [...]

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