Building a website is hard work. Correction: building a good website is hard work. I mean, we’re already up to what? Six things you need to know and implement if you want a reasonable chance of success? When will it end!
Honestly, this series could have been called “100 common sense tips” and that probably wouldn’t even cover the minutiae that goes into building a successful site.
Just about anyone can throw a few HTML files onto the web and call it a site, but it takes energy and attention to detail if you want that site to succeed. Starting small – with the basics in place – will go a long way toward reaching your goal.
This tip is about one of those small things that we take for granted, a basic component of every website that can have a huge impact on how well your site does.
Tip #6: Forms Should Be Easy To Use And Understand
Forms can serve a variety of purposes. They can be a place for visitors to submit questions, place orders, request price quotes, sign up for free newsletters, send feedback, and even provide you with a little bit of marketing information. A very little bit of marketing information.
Nobody wants to be bogged down filling out lengthy forms. If you can get visitors as far as your form, that’s great news. Now don’t drive them off by driving them crazy.
First, decide the purpose of your form. Then, decide the minimal amount of information that you need from someone who is using that form. If it’s a contact form, do you really need a person’s first and last names, date of birth, job title, phone number and ring size? Make the form so simple that a person would feel dumb not to fill it out and click “Submit”. Naturally if your form is part of a more complex ecommerce site, you would require additional information. But do stop and think about what information is truly important.
When you build a form, anticipate all the things that can go wrong and head them off before they do. What if your customer doesn’t provide an email address? What if they make a mistake and the form fails?
Some simple planning can ensure that your forms work for customers at the critical moment. For instance, if you require certain information, be sure to prompt customers to provide it so they cannot submit the form without it. Make sure that your error messages are clear and meaningful so that customers know exactly how to respond. In the event of an error, be sure to retain information that the customer has already completed. Nobody wants to go back and fill out the same information all over again.
Another good idea is to prepopulate as many fields as possible. This simply means controlling the information that a visitor can enter into a text box. For instance, don’t give visitors the opportunity to enter the wrong abbreviation for the state they live in. Instead, supply them with a list from which to choose: NY, ME, CA. All fifty. You will never wonder where to ship something when you mistakenly get “MC” in the box labeled “state”.
Prepopulating fields also comes in handy when you only want a limited set of responses. If you’re a writer, you may want a field that asks people what services they’re interested in. If you don’t ghostwrite novels, but you do edit manuscripts, write jingles and blog, then create a list of relevant services from which a customer can choose.
Your best bet when it comes to forms is short, simple and controlled. And this may seem like an obvious “by the way” but by the way, make sure your forms are actually getting to you. Just because a customer fills it out doesn’t mean it goes anywhere.
Few things will derail your chances of success with a giant brick wall in the face like a form that ends up in the ether.
What’s the “deal breaker” for you when you’re faced with a contact form? Is there any information you aren’t willing to provide?
Read More In The “Building A Good Website” Series
- Tip #1: A Website Should Be Informative
- Tip #2: Information Should Be Well Organized And Properly Distributed
- Tip #3: Information Should Be Relevant
- Tip #4: A Website Should Be Easy To Use And Navigate
- Tip #5: A Good Website Contains A Call To Action
- Tip #6: Forms Should Be Easy To Use And Understand
- Tip #7: News, Blogs And Social Media Should Be Updated Regularly
- Tip #8: A Website Should Be Search Engine Friendly
- Tip #9: Your Website Should Be At Least As Good As Your Competitor’s
- Tip #10: A Website Should Be Part Of The Big Picture