Tips for Optimizing and Managing Forms on Your Web Site
Good Web response-management techniques are essential for building relationships with visitors to your Web site. Optimizing forms on your Web site, such as registration, subscription or contest forms, is an integral part of this process. Forms that are correctly optimized for speed and efficiency increase return visits, Web traffic and sales.
The following tips and techniques can help you to create more effective Web forms and improve your online data collection:
1. Keep it consistent. When creating forms for various offers on your Web site, the first step is to carefully consider the number and type of questions to be included in your form. Rather than building customized forms one by one with unique database fields for each effort, sophisticated Web response-management systems allow you to copy forms from existing programs, to ensure compatibility across all data collected. Not only does this save time, if you consistently use the same form or even the same core contact fields, you’ll have the ability to “roll up” all data associated with multiple forms, creating a more comprehensive view of all Web response activity.
2. Keep it short. Another consideration is what kind of demographic questions you will ask in your form. Rather than building forms with all the information you’d like to have, carefully determine what information is absolutely necessary to create customer segmentation. You can then use this to develop filters for scoring, qualifying and routing the response data once it is collected. According to survey data from Jupiter Research1, registration forms including more than 11 fields, experienced significant “drop off” or non-completion rates. Since contact information can easily account for 10 fields (E-mail Address, First Name, Last Name, Title, Company, Street Address, City, State, Zip, Country), this doesn’t leave room for many extra questions before you start depressing response. However, one simple, attitudinal question about the type of products and services you offer, can provide a lot of insight into the type of content, tone and frequency of communication that is most appropriate for each new registrant.
3. Keep it simple. Use predetermined response options for as many of the questions as you can, to make it easier on respondents and give you the ability to aggregate response data. You can accomplish this by using a drop-down or check-box question type in your form. Common examples of where you can use predefined response options include State, Country and Job Title.
4. Keep it clean. For those questions that have multiple-choice options, make sure you include a response such as “Other” or “Does Not Apply,” so that everyone can respond accurately. Although responses such as these may not be the profile you are seeking, at least you will be able to identify these contacts as less desirable and won’t waste time on them. Another feature to look for in a Web response-management system is the ability to automatically identify and remove “junk” records from your valid pool of responses. Some respondents will enter obviously false information, like “Mickey Mouse,” or multiple keystrokes, like “alkhdflkhsdf,” to pass through forms without providing accurate information. These are not worthy of follow-up efforts, and it will save you valuable time to have these automatically filtered out.
5. Pre-populate Web forms for returning visitors. When you go back to a Web site, isn’t it nice to be recognized? Forms that are prepopulated, or filled out with pre-existing user data, allow return visitors to confirm their information is correct, and they won’t need to retype the same information twice. This helps to improve accuracy, as well as response and completion rates, in cases where additional data is required on return visits. Forms can be pre-populated with user-supplied data from previous visits, if a cookie from the server hosting the form exists on the user’s system. The cookie acts as a key to link the user to the location in the database where their record is stored, which facilitates recognition upon return. If the user has deleted their cookie, you can tell returning visitors to submit just their e-mail address within the form, in order to pre-populate the balance of the information, thereby saving time.
Source: “Online Data Collection: Tips for Optimizing and Managing Data Captured Over the Web,” Accela Communications. Publishing Executive Inbox readers may download the entire white paper at http://www.accelacomm.com/jlp/pubexec/1/1919/