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Web Forms: Why Yours Must be Short and Sweet

How many times have you used a tricky web form with too many fields to fill in, only to lose patience and give up before you pressed the submit button? We've all been there. And in the end, it's the website owner that misses out on gathering more information or making an important new contact.

As we said in a previous article, it's dangerous to list your email address directly on your website. It exposes you to email harvesting and various attacks. Some people like to phone, but many will use your web form. And web forms are used for other purposes, too. The last thing you want is for your simple form to be a barrier to people instead of a door.

How Much Information are You Asking For?

It's common for websites to use a contact form as a method of lead prioritization. It makes it easy to see the relevant, filled in information and assess how urgent it is to contact the person. Or maybe, whether they should be contacted at all.

If your website involves contacting a lot of people and you don't have much time, this is a great way to go. But are you asking for too much information?

For example, let's say you had a web form with 10 fields asking for the visitor's home address, partner's name, annual income, marital status and many other things. It's much more likely they'll give up before the end, or just not even try to fill in the form. It's better to make it as easy as possible for people. Shorter forms are the way to achieve this ease-of-use. Request only the essential information.

There can be a flipside to this. If you're in the lucky position of having thousands of people using your web forms, you may find that requesting more information can help filter out the best contacts. If you're using a form to generate leads and find your lead count is high but the quality of lead is low, consider adding one or two more lines to see how serious people really are.

Improving Sales with Shorter Web Forms

If you make sales from your website, shorter forms can be especially important. In one famous example, holiday and travel company, Expedia, discovered that one extra field on their web form was costing it $12 million every year in lost sales. That little extra effort required by visitors made all the difference.

Reducing the number of fields can significantly improve not only the contact rate, but the conversion rates of sales. In sales situations, starting people off with smaller commitments is a good way to build trust. It means people are more likely to trust you later with larger commitments. By having people agreed to the smaller commitment filling in a simple form, it's easier for salespeople to do their job later.

How Short Should Your Web Forms Be?

That's a good question, and normally, the answer is as: short as possible. Consider starting off by requesting a name and email address only (or whatever minimum information you need for your web form). Test this form out for a period of time and see what kind of results you get. Experimentation is the key here. Take notes on how well the web form performs gives you good insights in refining your strategies to test out new ideas. Show your website visitors you respect their time with shorter forms and positive results will surely follow.

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