Extending Online Forms

Extending Online Forms

Online forms are crucial in connecting to your audience and collecting valuable information, but they are often overlooked. Most websites have a form on the contact page that collects a user’s name and email and a short message. But what if your forms could do a whole lot more?

recent case study from the website Which Test Won? indicates that people may not mind giving more detailed information and in fact may increase their response rate  In this case, a form that also asked for the visitor’s occupation, experience and location pulled much more than a simple request for name and email. This goes against common wisdom that would say if a form is easier to complete, the more likely it is submitted. The difference was dramatic in a field that often measures success in single digit points. “The variation with more form fields won 31.3% more clicks to the next step, a 99.9% confidence rate.  Plus, 24.8% more of these click throughs completed the site’s entire 5-step registration process, at a 90.7% confidence rate.”

Why was the response higher? This form’s purpose was to get people to sign up for a  job referral service. By being asked detailed questions, the job seeker felt the website would send offers that were a better match for their experience. And once they had given detailed information in step one, the more likely they were committed to finish the entire form.  Now this is not your standard contact form, but isn’t it likely that the better your form is in finding out what your visitor wants, the more likely they would have faith in getting a good response?

Pressing the submit key

On the other hand, a long form can deter a response.  Another study found the “sweet spot” for form length is between 5-10 fields where 7 was the optimal number. Anything longer and the a user will begin to weigh their  lost time completing the form against the benefits of  completing the  form.

One way to keep forms short but still collect the information you need is to  use conditionality. Conditionality is standard with the popular WordPress  plugin, Gravity Forms, which is one of the few plugins that let you simply “drag and drop” the basic building blocks of a form. Conditionality lets you hide form fields until a specific field is chosen.

For an example of where this could be useful, take a membership application. If, say,  “Student Membership” is selected then hidden fields appear to collect information on the university, the degree, the year of graduation, etc. Those people who are not students don’t have to see those fields and have a shorter form to fill out.

Another often-overlooked aspect of forms is the confirmation that someone gets after submitting a form. Instead of the default response “Thank you for your request. We will get back to you shortly. ” why not give them something they can use? Could send them to another page in the site that might address their interests?  Or, in the case of membership applications, to a  page welcoming them as a new member listing the ways than can get involved?

You could also use a conditional confirmation page, to help streamline collecting funds.  If someone select “Pay with PayPal” and  submits the form,  you  could send them directly to your PayPal site. If they select “Pay by Check”, you could send them a page that includes the results of the form, ready to print out and mail in with the check. Your visitors will appreciate the convenience and it may encourage completed submissions.

Anything on your mind?