Web Form Optimization Best Practices — Part I

This is the first post in a series of two posts exploring recommended practices for optimizing web forms.

There are many types of forms on a website that serve different purposes: sign up, checkout, payment, quote request, lead generation etc. Too often when we are optimizing web forms, we focus mainly on the bottom rungs of the conversion hierarchy. We obsess with questions such as:

  • Does the website and form have any bugs or performance issues?
  • How can we reduce the time it takes users to complete the form?
  • How can we reduce the friction in the form?
  • Is the form accessible by people with all skill levels?
  • What cues can we provide that will make it easier for the user to complete the form?
  • Is there inline error validation? Is the error messaging helpful?
  • What is the ideal flow of the form? Do the steps make sense?
  • How can we reduce the size of the form so that the call to action button is above the fold?

But before building a roadmap of optimization projects, it is important to analyze the data you have. The aim of the analysis is to understand the context of the users visits. While your marketing efforts may be successful in driving a lot of new users motivated to buy, sign-up or donate, we must not jump to any conclusions. Here are some useful data sources to look at:

  1. Web Analytics: Use data in Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics or any other web analytics tool implemented on your website to answer the questions below:
  • What is the share of the different device types on my website? What is the conversion funnel by device type? Where are the leaks in the funnels?
  • What channels are driving traffic to my website? What is the conversion funnel by channel? Where are the leaks in the funnel?
  • Are the majority of my visitors new or returning? This is somewhat tricky now with all the major browsers implementing tracking prevention. But it is useful to understand if the conversion funnel differs significantly between the two types.
  • Are users entering the website on the form page or clicking through to the form from a different page on the website? If users are entering the site through the form page, this page needs to be treated like a landing page and must have messaging consistent with the ad or the referrer. At the same time, the page should start the user off on the conversion path.
  • What time do users typically arrive on your website? Is there a day in the week in particular that sees an uptick in traffic?
  • Is form level tracking implemented to identify which fields or steps users abandon the form at or the most common errors users are making?

2. Session Recording: Session recordings and heatmaps from tools such as HotJar, MouseFlow etc. are extremely valuable in understanding how user’s engage with your form, how much do they scroll, what do they click etc. Especially, if you have marketing copy on the page, this is helpful in identifying if users actually engaged with it.

3. Usability Study: Another source of information is usability studies which involves recruiting some current users and/ or prospects and having them run through your website and the checkout flow. Tools such as usertesting.com, Validately etc. make it simple to conduct remote user tests online. Some points to note:

  • You can choose to recruit from your own user base or recruit from their panel at an additional cost per respondent.
  • Add screener questions, set up tasks and ask questions for each of the tasks to understand the user’s thought process as they go through the flow.
  • It is important to remind respondents to talk their thoughts out loud.
  • You will get a video recording of each of the sessions showing how the user is interacting with the information sought. The videos are a great way to understand where users may be getting stuck in the form.
  • While there is no magic number of respondents, the NN group posits that most insights are uncovered by around 5 respondents.
  • It is very important that you recruit users closest to your target audience. If there is more than one target audience, recruit around 5 respondents for each type.

4. Exit Intent Survey: Another useful tool is an exit intent survey. Be sure to set the right trigger and make sure the survey pops up as expected and is not blocking a user who is actually trying to complete the form. Exit intent pop-ups are often used to retain users by providing an attractive offer. The next best thing to a conversion is insights so pop-up a survey to understand what the user was hoping to achieve on the website today and what kept them from it.

5. Post Conversion Survey: Another tool is to have a single question on the thank you page after a successful checkout is to ask successful users “what almost kept them from signing up”.

This analysis should help you identify a bunch of potential problem areas for possible improvements.

  • Performance issues are often low hanging fruits and could have a dramatic impact on conversions.
  • If we find that a large percentage of users are coming via mobile and conversion rates of mobile trail desktop heavily, that is an area for improvement.
  • If we find that step 1 to step 2 CTR of a certain major traffic channel that’s accounting for a large chunk of the traffic is below average, that is another opportunity to improve.
  • If we notice that the form page has a high bounce rate, there is likelihood that the landing page is not consistent with the expectations set by the ad or the referral source.
  • Through exit survey, we may find that users are not comfortable using the current payment options supported on the website or are interested in a different action such as volunteering (instead of donating) in the case of non-profits.

This post reviewed the content in the CXL mini-degree on conversion optimization. Stay tuned for the second post in this series that explores how persuasion can be used to drive conversions.

On the path to learning all things insights and optimization (linkedin.com/in/bithikamehra) | Foodie | Environmentalist| Loves to travel | Player of a few riffs

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