Anyone who has made a purchase online, applied for a job, or registered for an event has most likely encountered a web form. For the vast majority of small businesses, web forms are the best way to collect important customer information such as credit card details or a shipping address.
Even though small business owners encounter web forms just as often as their customers do, it can be difficult to anticipate how customers will experience a web form when it’s for your own business.
When designing web forms, small business owners should test wording and design elements with their specific audiences to find the most successful version possible. Along the way, you can rely on user experience principles.
Use the following tips to design more effective web forms based on tried-and-true user experience principles.
Shorter Web Forms Tend to Gather More Responses
In general, small businesses should design web forms that request information that is essential to completing a task, and nothing more.
For many small business owners, it can be tempting to use web forms to collect additional data about their customers.
Often, this impulse comes from a good place: Small business owners believe that learning more about their audience will help them craft products and services that will suit their customers needs precisely.
However, incorporating more questions means that web forms can become longer and longer. In most cases, users are exponentially less likely to complete web forms once they surpass the necessary number of questions.
Experts caution that users are busy, and their attention is often fragmented by distractions on- and offline. Plus, some users are hesitant to divulge personal information if it’s not directly related to the task they are attempting to complete.
Too often, small businesses have grand plans for the extra data they collect, only to get busy and abandon their intended projects.
Instead, keep your web forms short and to the point. As long as you collect users’ contact information, you can always follow up with an additional survey in the future for any projects you decide to pursue.
Provide Context for Users
No one likes to be in the middle of a task with no clue as to how much longer it will take or how their information will be used. The same is true for your web form users.
By providing additional context within a web form, small businesses can build trust with users by reassuring them that their information and time will be treated with respect.
A few key ways to provide context within a web form include:
By incorporating these simple web form design changes, you can strengthen your relationship with customers and increase the likelihood that they will be willing to complete your web form.
Let Users Scroll Through All Questions
If there’s a theme through expert advice about web forms, it’s that users like to have a full sense of what a web form will entail up front.
Overall, research shows that users prefer scrolling through a web form in its entirety. By showing users all of your questions up front, you allow them to calculate the time and energy they will need to complete your web form. (The alternative to letting users scroll through an entire form is to divide questions among several pages that users click through.)
In some cases, a user might decide to save your web form for a time when they can devote their full attention to it. Had your web form lacked context and split questions across multiple pages, that same user might have quit in the middle of filling out your web form due to lack of time.
Although users generally prefer to scroll through an entire web form, the alternative approach works well for some web forms. For example, when purchasing concert tickets, many users would expect to choose their seats on a different page than the page where payment information is collected.
Like any design update, small businesses should test variations of their web forms to determine what works best with their audiences.
Overall, Small Businesses Should Audit and Refine Their Web Forms
Even if your customers complete your web forms most of the time, it’s worthwhile to investigate where gaps might exist. By learning more about how pain points exist within your web forms, you can make small design changes that improve your web forms’ user experience.
Small businesses should look for ways to make their web forms more streamlined, better contextualized, and easier for customers to complete.
By refining your web forms, you can ensure that your small business captures as many conversions as possible, whether they come in the form of job applicants, sales, newsletter signups, and more.
Michelle Delgado is a Content Developer & Marketer at Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm based in Washington DC. She primarily reports on user experience, web design, and website builder software.