“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. Today, we will change the words of Seneca a bit. Just put “business profit” instead of “luck” and “form optimization” instead of “preparation”, to be specific. Result? A formula of success which no longer depends on chance, but on things you can control. A good form design that illuminates the path to completion can make it easy even for less motivated passersby to break through and submit. Yes, you can control and increase the number of submissions your form gets, thus gaining new business opportunities.
Each casual visitor who happens upon your web form can convert into an engaged lead for your business – can subscribe to your email stream, can request a quote or can make a donation. It’s a small step from CAN to WILL, and it lies entirely in the design of your form. This post starts a series of conversion rate optimization articles for each major type of web form: contact forms, sales lead generation forms, surveys, feedback forms, subscription forms, quote request forms. It’s an addition to our past articles on form best practices in September and October last year.
First things first: what does “conversion rate” mean, after all? It basically indicates how many people submit the form successfully out of the total number of visitors who see it. To reach the figures, you can count the number of submissions you’ve received from your form and divide that by the number of unique visits on your form page, which you can get from web traffic stats software such as Google Analytics. Let’s take an example: if your Contact Us page had 500 visits this month, out of which 150 people submitted the contact form, you have the following stats:
150 / 500 = 0.3 -> 30% conversion rate
This looks like a good grade, but it can be even better. Form conversion rates depend on the traits of the website and on the layout of the form itself. Practice makes perfect, so we advise you to test and optimize the form according to the tips below, to hit greater and greater milestones in conversion rates.
An engaging website user experience starts with a good contact form. Why may people be contacting you?
- to leave feedback – which you need at all times
- to complain about something regarding your business – and it’s recommendable for them to do it here rather than publicly on Facebook or Twitter
- to make a basic enquiry without passing through the main Request quote page – which can still lead to a purchase later
- to say hi – and you can offer them an opt-in opportunity for your newsletter, just because they passed by.
Either way, it’s in your best interest to welcome visitors and be there for them on the contact form.
Help people reach your form
Before we can speak of submitting the form, your visitors need to track it down first, and with ease. When someone lands on your site, they expect to visualize the Contact Us link or tab in certain well-known positions on the screen, so make that eye contact. While the page header and footer are common placements for the contact tab, the highest conversion rates are obtained with form buttons on the side of the page.
On the actual form page, if you include text beside the form make sure you put it on the left side, and the form on the right. It’s proven that forms placed in the right side of the page have a 5% to 10% higher conversion rate that the left aligned ones.
Increase the form’s visual impact
Today’s time crunched internet users scan through the form at one glance and instantly judge whether to proceed filling it in or not. To win them over, you need a clean form design that guides attention towards the final goal – hitting the Submit button. Make the contact form look short and lightweight by taking out the scrolling. Also, avoid arranging the fields on two columns, as it dramatically decreases upon fields by making them appear isolated.
Brand match is a very important element; the form should display the same distinctive color theme and style that’s featured on the rest of your website. If your brand imagery contains more complex graphics (special textures, shapes or photos), it’s a good idea to custom your form using CSS and elegantly chime those in.
The submit button is an essential piece of real estate on your form. You have the opportunity to turn it into a call-to-action by replacing the text “Submit” with an inviting word that leaves a follow-up perspective: “Register now!”,”Download”, “Subscribe”. If you choose a bold green or orange nuance for the button, you’ve put the cream on the cake.
Once the form has passed the visual test, it’s time to guide users through filling in the fields. The most common requests in contact forms are Name and Email, while some businesses choose to ask for the phone number and mailing address too. You need people to trust you enough in order to write down their contact data. People who are not that savvy internet users can get suspicious of anyone requesting their personal information, so you have to overcome that restraint.
Think of the page content as a whole
Beside the form itself, there are other means people can get in touch with you: phone, fax (still survives) and – who knows? – maybe even snail mail. There’s no accounting for taste. While you design the contact page, try to see the big picture and don’t forget to give physical contact information too. It’s good to know that phone lead-to-customer conversion rates are 15 – 20 times higher than web leads-to-conversion rates. So you should definitely place a phone number there, just in case. Also, why not put a Google Map inside the form, if you expect personal appointments? It can make a brilliant first impression and score extra conversion points for you, like it does for Knack Digital Marketing:
Make it short and concise
We cannot say it louder – keep the form simple. A Hubspot statistic revealed that reducing the number of required fields by just one, meaning from 4 down to 3, led to an increase in conversion rates by… 50%! Pause for thought.
There is no golden number, but usually the form shouldn’t have more than 6 fields, tops. Often, the contact forms have more functions than simply taking a message – they can be requests for information or promotional materials, press inquiries, feedback upon the website. Being so, you can use a choice field to let people set the reason they are contacting you about.
Marketers often include a form field that asks people how they heard about the company. This is a way to gain valuable insights over the efficiency of the promotional campaigns, but it also lengthens the form unacceptably and increases the drop rates. As a non-intrusive alternative, we recommend you to just track referral data about the submitter (in Submissions).
Careful about the CAPTCHA
In the effort to keep spam away, we should be careful not to annoy legitimate users with a CAPTCHA that’s impossible to decipher. A SEOMoz article analyzed the form conversions while CAPTCHA was disabled, in comparison with cases when it was enabled. From about 2100 form submissions in each situation, it seemed like when the CAPTCHA was on, conversions dropped with 3.2%. 123FormBuilder uses friendly CAPTCHAs made of capital letters and numbers, but it’s still not a pleasant test to pass when you fill a form in a hurry. This is why we recommend using smart CAPTCHA at all times, which only shows up if there is a sign of abuse to the form.
Final recommendation: do A/B testing with every set of updates you make.There can be infinite variations of your contact forms, but testing and tweaking permanently is the surefire receipt of success that we can recommend hands down.
And stay tuned for the next read: Conversion Optimization Tips for Sales Leads Forms.