In this article, learn how you can serve both your prospects’ and your interests when situating forms on your website.
Optimizing your website’s form strategy is about understanding the give and take required. Your prospects want contextual, personalized communication, as well as to maintain their privacy. On the other hand, your business needs to collect information from prospects to help personalize their user experience. But both of these things must not be done in ways that make it difficult for prospects to convert into customers.
Web and operation strategists must balance their need for information gathering with prospects’ need for intuitive and unobtrusive user experience (UX) when developing an effective form strategy. Forms must be straightforward, providing the least friction for users submitting information.
The Perfect Balance
Strategists need just enough information for their purposes, most often, segmenting the user into their correct persona. You want to know when to send them to the sales rep, meaning you need a considerable amount of information, such as their company size, annual revenue, industry, challenges or pain points, among others. You don’t want to pry too much information from a prospect too early in your interaction, but you need to get enough information to continue engaging relevantly. If all you have is an email address, use purposeful questions to engage with visitors and reveal more about prospects with asking too much. An extra question or two is enough, but you don’t want a form with twenty fields before a user gets the resource they want.
Align Your Ask with Value
The way to collect information without making prospects uncomfortable it to match the thing you’re asking for with the value/offer you provide when they fill the form. Suppose an anonymous visitor comes into the site and clicks a CTA for a meeting with your sales rep, you’ll need qualifying information to make the interaction valuable for both parties.
Be clear that you need all that information to form the best recommendation for the user – in that case it is sensible to have several fields in your form. You cannot, however, have the same number of fields for an e-book download.
Your user’s placement in the buyer’s cycle also matters. For BoFu (bottom-of-the-funnel) offers resulting in highly personalized information or meetings with your team, asking for in-depth details is acceptable. Conversely, For ToFu (top-of-the-funnel) resources like a comprehensive e-book download, you should have no more than six fields: name, email, company, website URL, and two more depending on your needs. Meanwhile, BoFu forms can easily go as long as 12-20 fields with no problem. To assess the level of friction a form poses, consider, not just how many questions you ask, but the type of information you’re asking for. For example, asking a first and last name has two fields, but asking annual revenue will likely cause more friction.
Related: What is Evergreen Content?
Optimize Form Design
Your user should never have to think about how they will fill out your form; it must be as straight-shooting and intuitive as possible. The design and style of any form determine how engaging it is for website visitors. For instance, minimalistic, single-column forms create better UX than crowded three-column forms. Including features like dependent fields allows asking follow-up questions according to the user’s responses. This way, you can get relevant information from specific audiences, without causing friction for all other users.
Multi-step design can help you make a form with many fields more user friendly. The idea is to break fields into smaller groups – such as what you’ve seen when you make an online order, i.e. confirm the order, fill out shipping details on the second page, and provide billing information on the third page. Sectioning a long-form makes it more palatable for users, reducing the threat of consumers feeling overwhelmed by your queries. The downside is that your users cannot immediately assess how much detail the form needs. You can circumvent this by starting with the hardest questions (or questions requiring the most input from the user), followed by fill-in-the-black questions and checkbox questions. Finally, ask for basic contact information on the last page.
You can turn your form into a lead generation quiz, which allows you to collect information from people without making them feel like you’re prying. To do this, turn your quiz into the information your users want. For instance, use qualifying questions to generate personalized insights. This allows you to get your info in exchange for a valuable resource for the user. Include your value proposition in the lead-in text, so that users are compelled to complete all the questions. You must follow through with the value proposition promised at the beginning of the quiz.
Natural Language Forms
You can make your form more engaging by styling it like fill-in-the-blanks paragraphs, sort of like a mad lib. They are fun to fill out and can create a novel experience for the user. However, natural language forms are only effective if you have a handful of fields or less. If you ask too many questions, you’ll present the user an overwhelmingly large block of text.
Collecting Information without Forms
You don’t have to use forms to collect information; you can apply lead enrichment tools or conversational marketing to reduce or eliminate the friction from forms. Conversational marketing tools like chatbots aim to reduce the friction of collecting data. Visitors can offer details about themselves and request information in real-time, unlike with forms. Lead enrichment tools don’t substitute forms; rather, they make forms easier to fill out. With sales intelligence tools, you can collect certain identifying data and have the tool backfill all other details. For example, asking for company URL night furnish data about industry, company size, and location. Your users don’t have to fill out additional fields or need team members to update contacts manually.
Enrichment tools allow you to focus on the types of questions to ask to only get the information you can’t collect elsewhere. For example, you can only learn your user’s biggest challenge by asking them but can find details about their company on the internet once you have the name or URL.
Optimizing your form strategy boils down to treating the form the way you would in an actual conversation with someone. You wouldn’t get too personal too soon, or ask more than the value you offer in return. Saying that a form creates friction means that the intent behind the form causes friction, or its design hurts the user experience.
Whenever you’re in doubt about user receptiveness to your questions, err on the side of fewer questions. But don’t be afraid of a little friction if it will help you collect information that will be useful for creating better interaction for the user in the long run. Consider the value of getting some information versus no information at all by weighing the length of the form versus the value to the user. If you balance what you give and what you get, you’ll be able to create a better experience for the user in the longer term.