Gee, this looks like an interesting article.  Not only does it have an in-your-face salesy claim (something is doubled overnight) but it’s about the glamorous subject of sign-up forms.  So don’t bother reading on unless a) you have or build sites that have a sign-up page, something like this:

form

And b) don’t mind a little plug for Postcode Anywhere’s addressing web service which solves one of the major problems with these forms.

The overriding rule

The overriding rule is this: make the form friendly.  It must not be intimidating.  Leads and potential customers do not want to see this staring them in the face:

Intimidating form

Intimidating form

This can be broken down into three golden rules:

1) Trim the fat

Do you really need to know all those details?  Or is the only thing you really need the name and the email address?  If you can trim it down to these two pieces of information, you’re done.

2) Use more than one screen

If there are some details you absolutely must capture at that point in time – credit card details, for example, then it makes no sense to bunch it all up on the one screen.  The best technique I’ve seen is to ask for the name and email address in the first screen, and put a “continue” button which takes you to the next screen, and so on.  I’m not going to go into detail on all the design and coding elements of how this is done – you can figure that out for yourself.  There is more than one way to skin a cat.  But I will say this: think about the psychology of it.  If you see a very short form, you’re more likely to fill it out.  And by the time the next screen comes up, you’ve already made a commitment and invested some time into filling out the form.  Now that you’ve spent some time on it, you don’t want it to be wasted time.  So you click through and fill out more than you would normally.

3) Make it easy

Use widgets and tools to automate some of the processes so filling the form is quick and easy.  You could add a little javascript date picker, for instance, if you need that kind of information.  This is where Postcode Anywhere’s address lookup tool comes in – not only does it make entering lengthy addresses easy (typically cutting keystrokes by 80%), but the data you do capture will be accurate and typo-free.  Everybody loves these neat little tools that make life online easier – and they make you look good.

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