How To Design The Perfect Online Form For Your Target Audience


Getting site visitors to fill out a form isn’t an easy task. You’re asking people to spend time and effort, and they also have to trust you enough to share personal information. The last thing you want is people bouncing away because they don’t want to complete some fields. In a survey of 512 people, The Manifest found 81% admit to abandoning a form after they started to fill it out. Some of the reasons they cited were security concerns, length of the questionnaire and loss of interest. While you can’t control every reason people walk away from conversions, you can fix many problems and increase your numbers. Your goals should always focus first on your target audience and their needs. It does you no good to have leads who aren’t likely to complete a sale. Here are some things you can focus on to improve your online forms and reach the people you most want.

Getting site visitors to fill out a form isn’t an easy task. You’re asking people to spend time and effort, and they also have to trust you enough to share personal information. The last thing you want is people bouncing away because they don’t want to complete some fields.


In a survey of 512 people, The Manifest found 81% admit to abandoning a form after they started to fill it out. Some of the reasons they cited were security concerns, length of the questionnaire and loss of interest. While you can’t control every reason people walk away from conversions, you can fix many problems and increase your numbers.


Your goals should always focus first on your target audience and their needs. It does you no good to have leads who aren’t likely to complete a sale. Here are some things you can focus on to improve your online forms and reach the people you most want.


1. Keep It Short


Put yourself in the shoes of the person filling in the form. They likely have limited time, so you must keep the form short and simple.


Studies are all over the place about how long a form should be. Most people agree a shorter one reduces abandonment rates, though. Think of it as the first line of contact. You don’t need to know much more than their name, email and possibly the issue they are contacting you about.


2. Provide Value


Offer some type of reward in exchange for people sharing their contact information when signing up for newsletters. For example, you might provide a free e-book or webinar.


Offer a freebie your competitors do not. You must understand your target audience and what their pain points are. What do they need, and how does your incentive provide it? Giving them a relevant offer increases conversion rates.


3. Collect Only What You Need


You’re responsible for the data you collect and keeping it safe from prying eyes. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fines companies that don’t take steps to protect EU citizens from hackers or leave themselves vulnerable to attacks.


Think about the information you need to move forward. If you require a name and phone number or email, only ask for those things.


You also need policies in place about how long you keep details provided to you and what you use them for.


4. Use a Call to Action (CTA) Button


Do you want to draw attention to your form and encourage people to fill it out? CTA buttons grab users’ attention and indicate they need to take action. CTAs that consider buyer personas are about 42% more effective than generic ones.


You should also include a CTA for the form itself. Add a button with action words, such as “submit now,” “get feedback on your post” or “get your free book.”


5. Tweak Your Language


The language you use on your form should be clear and to the point. If you want the person’s first and last name, don’t try to get cute and tell them you want their alias or handle.


In addition to using clear, common language, you should also try different phrasing if anything seems unclear. If you notice people leave a particular field blank or abandon the form on one of the questions, look at how you might tweak it and conduct some split testing to fix any issues.


6. Consider Mobile


Statista predicts around 52.3 million people in the United States will be mobile-only internet users by the end of the year. Think about how usable your form is on smartphones.


It is much harder to type out answers on a small screen than a desktop computer with a keyboard. The simpler you make your form, the better. You can also provide some ready-made responses common to your target audience. That prevents the user from having to endlessly type in answers.


Don’t just assume your form works well on mobile. Take the time to pull your site up on both Android and iOS devices. Fill in the questionnaire and pay attention to how long it takes you and if you hit any snafus. Fix issues you notice, and ask for customer feedback on how to improve the site for mobile.


7. Use a Predictable Layout


People expect things to be in a certain order. When we fill out forms on paper or online, there is a predictability to the process. Almost always, the form asks for the name first and then other information.


If you aren’t sure what order you should use, spend some time looking at forms on your competitors’ sites. You can also check out large corporations and see how they format theirs.


Is the name on one line and the address on another? How are things split up? Is it easier to ask for city, state and zip code separately or put it all in a single box?


Think about what your users expect. You want the form-filling process to be as intuitive as possible. If you place things in an unusual order, you risk losing them due to confusion or uncertainty.


Keep Perfecting Your Forms


Don’t be afraid to try new things. Autofill is an excellent way to complete a form quickly with little effort from the user. Integrate your site with Facebook, Google and other platforms, so the user can just click a button and sign up for a mailing list. Look for ways to improve your forms over time, and your conversion rates will steadily increase.


Guest Post by Eleanor Hecks


Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pups, Bear and Lucy.


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