/ forms

You’re Asking All Wrong: 16 Simple Mistakes that Kill Response Rates on Forms, Surveys, & Landing Pages

Forms, surveys, and landing pages can be a difficult beast for many companies.

Even the best-made plans fall flat when there aren't enough responses or people don't seem to convert like you hoped. You have questions, your audience has responses. They may even want to give you their answers but don't...or they can't.

Why is this?

It might feel like you need a PhD to understand all of the intricacies of optimizing for conversions or submissions. But, the truth of the matter is that many of the biggest barriers are the simple mistakes—the small details—that make it inconvenient or even impossible for your audience to engage.

Instead of being a gateway to the information you need, your form becomes a barrier.

It has the exact opposite effect you had hoped for.

Did the user not like the color of the “Submit” button? Did you not communicate your questions clearly? Was your survey too long? Did they run into a technical error they couldn’t resolve?

More than likely, it’s a combination of a few of these.

Generally, the mistakes form creators make fall into one of four categories:

  • Planning
  • Technology
  • Design
  • User Experience (UX)

Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes that tank response rates.

Planning

There are lots of tactical things you can do to increase the response rates on your forms, but none are as important as the overall strategy you use to create them.

Online form creation is a tightrope walk—you need enough data to support your business, but you need to limit the amount of questions to an acceptable range for your customers. That said, here are some tips to consider before you’ve even gotten to the execution phase, while you’re still planning your approach.

1. Asking the wrong questions

Ask yourself: What do you really need to know?

Customers view data they provide as a transaction. They understand that the info they give you is worth something, and therefore they usually want something something in return (or your company has built up enough goodwill to call in a favor).

On the flip side, if customers don’t understand why you need this data, feel that you’re getting too personal, or think that they’ve already provided the info you’re asking for, they’re going to get frustrated. Not only will they abandon your survey, you may leave them with a negative brand experience.

Here’s how to cover your bases when coming up with your survey questions:

Survey Question Checklist

Basically, you need to take into account what this looks like from the user side, too.

2. Too many form fields

Is this an obvious tip? Yes. Do many, many people still make their surveys and forms too long? Also yes.

Response Rate Versus Questions Asked

There have been many studies on this subject and while a few found that there are scenarios where more fields can lead to better response rate, the majority of the science on this topic is clear—fewer fields leads to higher conversion. One test found that removing 3 fields could result in an 11% lift in responses.

Surveys with more than 15 questions are too long—we recommend keeping it down to ten.

Pro tip: Are you absolutely sure (see #1 above) that you need more than ten data points? Double your sample size and divide your questions into two groups.

3. Too many required fields

Online forms aren’t just about surveys, of course, and this tip applies to the forms on landing pages for downloadable content. Again, going back to the transactional nature of an online form, the customer (or prospect) makes a decision about the value they’re providing vs. what they’re getting in return.

Limit your required fields to name, email, and job title (or other introductory question like company size). If you’re requiring a list of answers, your response rate will likely dip dramatically.

If you’re certain you need more data, introduce new form fields one at a time and A/B test.

4. Asking for a phone number

If you ask for a phone number, and especially if you (gasp!) require a phone number, say a prayer for your conversion rate. Because it’s dead on arrival. Many customers, and almost all prospects, simply don’t want to actually speak to another human. Requiring a phone number implies that, and you must avoid this in your landing pages.

One study found that simply making a phone number optional instead of required was able to cut form abandonment by 90% and doubled overall conversions.

Technology (or lack thereof)

Now that you have your plan, it’s time to dig into the tech.

5. Not making your forms accessible on every device

As of about 2015, this feature is not a ‘nice to have,’ it is a ‘must have.’ According to Google, more than 60% of searches are now conducted on mobile.

Share of Online Searches Initiated on Mobile Device, by Industry

Our expectation is that whatever we’re looking for should be accessible on our phones and tablets. If it’s not, or if we have to fuss with zooming in and out, or scroll horizontally to view the page/form, there’s just no way we’re hanging around.

Forms need to re-size and fit any device automatically.

6. Impossible rules for passwords

Strong passwords are a crucial element of online security, yet according to The Telegraph, more than 50% of people use the top 25 most common passwords. Yikes.

As a company, if you want to help keep your customers’ data secure, you have to require passwords with enough entropy to avoid having them easily cracked. What you don’t have to do, however, is hide this information and instead provide cryptic messages about why the password “12345” won’t work and send users into a guessing game that requires more time and patience than they’re willing to provide.

Consider providing a quick, upfront, and friendly explanation of your password requirements in your online forms.

7. Not using smart CAPTCHA

TTechnology is wonderful; trying to decipher squiggly lines is not.

Smart CAPTCHA example

“Is that an ‘A’ or a ‘4?’ It’s really hard to tell when it’s covered in polka dots! Argh!”

Luckily, we’ve evolved to a point where we no longer need the process described above to filter out robot from human responses to our online forms. Resources like Google’s reCAPTCHA allow users to simply tick a checkbox, and smart CAPTCHA doesn’t ask for any proof unless it detects potentially fraudulent activity—such as multiple visit to your site from the same IP address.

If you’re not using one of these tools to ensure your users have a smooth experience, don’t use CAPTCHA at all!

8. You forget to make your forms smart and/or conditional

As discussed in the Planning section, asking for information you already have is frustrating to users.

But sometimes, it might be difficult to know if you’ve already asked.

With smart forms, database technology has your back. By using cookies, smart forms will skip questions that your database already has answers to. A decent form builder will also allow you to pipe previously entered answers into upcoming questions and content to save the user time.

Piggybacking on that concept, conditional forms won’t ask questions that have been rendered unnecessary by a previous question. If somebody has responded she doesn’t have a pet, there’s no need to ask what his name is—so don’t!

Design

We’ve actually written an entire blog post about why your web forms need to visually engage your readers, and we highly recommend reading that. But for now, let’s run through some common form design mistakes and how to correct them.

9. Horizontal orientation/Side-by-side layouts

Be very careful when using multiple columns.

img6

People from Western countries are programmed to read pages, including forms, from top to bottom. If the layout of your form forces users to scroll side to side, they’re going to feel like they’ve just had an odd experience and probably won’t complete the form.

10. Labels inside form fields

We’ve all seen it, and many of us have likely done it—you put the label in the form field to save space, or because it makes the design of the form look cleaner.

The downside, however, is that when somebody clicks into the field, the label disappears, which can cause the person to forget what the form was asking for. Additionally, many screen-reading programs for the visually impaired will not pick up on that type of label.

Making the minor adjustment of moving labels outside of the form field can dramatically improve overall usability.

11. Hiding your buttons

How many times have you been on a website or app and been confused about where you’re supposed to click or what you’re supposed to do next?

The call to action on any form or screen should be obvious to the user. It should guide them.

If you’ve successfully moved somebody through all your form fields, it would be a huge mistake to allow them to miss your call-to-action (CTA) buttons.

Use contrasting colors and make sure they’re big enough to draw attention. This can have the added benefit of drawing attention to your form if it’s not the only element on the page.

constant-contact-CT-button

Although tweaking the CTA alone probably won’t make for explosive results, getting it right can reduce the amount of perceived work for the user and make people more willing and able to submit their responses.

12. Crowding fields, labels, and buttons

Let those form fields breathe.

Example Showing the Importance of White Space

Make sure you haven’t crunched them together to look too much like a spreadsheet and given plenty of room in the margins. White space is one of the most important aspects of good design. Not only does it make things look neater and tidier, but it actually aides in focus and improves comprehension by as much as 20%—two things that are pretty important if you’re trying to get someone to fill out a form.

User Experience

A lot of what we have just covered deals with form UX, but there are a few points we need to mention. We can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time really consider human interaction with your form.

13. Confusing error messages

You know what’s not a great experience? The feeling of having a computer call you dumb. And while no form creator has ever set out intentionally to call one of their customers or prospects stupid, this is what happens when your error messages aren’t clear.

bitly-error-message

If the user doesn’t know where the mistake occurred, or doesn’t understand how to fix it, a simple form can potentially send him into a fit of rage.

Two quick fixes:

  1. Indicate where the error happened by outlining the form field in question with something visually striking, such as a red color.
  2. Use specific language when describing the error—explaining to the user that he forget to include the @ symbol is a lot more helpful than proclaiming “Invalid entry” in the email form field.

14. No real call to action

Yes, you should be clear, but you shouldn’t be robotic.

Consider loading up your CTA button with a benefit-driven (short) statement. For example, rather than offer a free ebook and ask a prospect to “submit” her info, consider compelling her into action with a phrase like “Send me the free ebook now!”

social-media-report-cta

Small touches like upgrading your CTA can have a large impact in your conversion rates.

15. Unusable dropdowns

Dropdown style questions are a double-edged sword. Yes, they can help eliminate mistakes and streamline the answer process for your users. Also, yes, they can create a clunky experience, especially for mobile users.

While dropdowns can provide convenience for your users and help you segment their responses more easily than a write-in form field, be judicious with your use of them if you want to maintain strong conversion rates.

16. No sense of urgency

When it comes to compelling action, there’s nothing like urgency.

If I have all day to complete a form or a landing page, then I have no reason to give it my attention right now. I can always just come back and do it later (read: forget all about it and never end up doing it at all), right?

urgency-cta

Using simply phrases as a subtle nudge will help encourage users to take action promptly.

Think:

  • Limited time offer
  • Only available for X days
  • Free for the first X users

Or, just offer a countdown that shows that time is of the essence.

OK, we know we just threw a ton of information your way. If you’d like to see some of these principles in action, head over to our Templates gallery and see for yourself!

--

Want to create beautiful, high-converting forms, surveys, and landing pages?

Try a free 14-day trial of Paperform—no credit card required!

Tyler Hakes