The Madness of Online Forms

Bad Website Forms Will Cost You Sales

form madness

Getting prospective customers to sign up on your website is one of the holy grails of online marketing. So it always surprises me that so many companies design their forms so badly.

Simple, silly mistakes that could easily be fixed end up costing businesses millions in lost revenue.

This is all the more surprising considering how much some companies spend on online advertising and marketing to get prospective customers to their sites in the first place. See Online Marketers Still Clueless

Recently I came across two maddening examples in the space of a frustrating afternoon.

One was a site using Paypal. I wanted to buy their product but there were about two dozen fields to fill in on the online form. When I finally pushed the submit button I got a message saying my information was incorrect and please correct it.

But remarkably no indication as to exactly which piece of information was incorrect, let alone how to fix it.

They were effectively saying: “You’re wrong, get it right or get lost.” See Improve Your Shopping Cart Conversions

I wasn’t about to try and guess which of the endless fields was wrong, I couldn’t be bothered so I left and they lost a guaranteed sale.


Paypal Poo Poo

Now Paypal is somewhat legendary for its intransigent customer service practices, but that’s another story that you can Google for yourself.

The fact is the business owner lost a guaranteed sale because of a poorly thought out form design and operation.

Plus there was no other option than Paypal on their site, so there was no alternative payment method to capture the sale.

For many people the mere sight of a Paypal button will have them clicking away, so think carefully before putting all your eggs in the Paypal basket.


Singing the Bloo Blues

The other site was Bloo. Their form, while nicely designed simply didn’t work. After filling in their lengthy form and pressing the submit button nothing happened.  No page reload, no “We’re processing your request, “no error messages the page just did nothing.

After trying several times I gave up: Another lost sale.

Bloo in particular has spent quite a bit on marketing its site, yet all that money is potentially wasted because a simple form doesn’t work.

In both of the above cases entire online marketing campaigns have come unstuck because of simple and silly mistakes at the last stage of the buying process.


Essential Form Design Tip - Keep it Simple Silly (KISS)

Online forms are pretty simple technical things to implement, although you do have to be wary of designers and programmers who want to overcomplicate them.

You also have to watch out for over eager marketers who want to profile everything about your prospects including the name of their first born.

 Ideally the less information you ask for the better. If customers are just signing up for something then just an email address and maybe a name. Everything else should be optional.

If they are buying something, then just ask for the minimum amount of information you need to process the sale. Don’t ask for anything you don’t need.


Avoid Date Rape Marketing

I call this practice of asking for too much information “date rape marketing”.

(I know this is an extreme term, and I do apologise for any offense, but I think it perfectly sums up the experience.)

The company asks for so much without giving much in return that you start to feel abused and violated. You said yes to a coffee but now they’re straight into marriage and having babies and even the marriage bit seems optional.

They are making you jump through hoops just for the privilege of you giving them your money.

So only ask for what’s appropriate, if they really are going to become a customer you can always get more information later in the relationship.


Good Web Form Design Resources

Good online form design is an art in itself, and it is one worth pursuing as it can reap you huge rewards. Properly designed forms will increase your revenues and reduce your marketing costs. Not to mention keep your customers happy.

See the list below to get you started:

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