Web Form Optimization Best Practices — Part II

In the previous post, I covered data to analyze and questions to answer before developing a roadmap of improvements for your web forms. Be sure to analyze the performance of your form using the framework provided in the conversion hierarchy so that you are able to identify issues pertaining to functionality, accessibility and usability. Some of these issues will be resolved through bug fixes while the others will require much deeper thought and analysis. For the non-bug fixes, analyze the issue from different angles — content, UI/ design, UX — and come up with potential hypotheses that you can prove or disprove through testing.

While these will improve the performance of the form, the incremental gains from these changes may die down over time. We often make a big assumption that the user arriving at the web form is motivated to complete the desired action and what’s stopping her is the lack of usability of the form. It is important to address persuasion which sits atop the conversion hierarchy pyramid. Persuasion techniques help us address a huge leak i.e. users who abandon even before starting the form or essentially drop off during the various steps without any obvious issues with the form.

These techniques can be applied to different elements of a form page — copy, form and imagery — and drive users to complete the desired action. Let’s dive deeper especially for subscription or donations businesses


Context dependent messaging: All of us have had times when we walked to another room certain about what we wanted from there, only to stand there a minute later flummoxed and unable to recall what we came there for. It is our tendency to forget things which are out of context and to recall information more easily when the original contextual cues are present.

How to use ->

  • The same thing can be applied in the case of a web form page. The messaging should be consistent with the ads and the landing page the user has come from. Repetition (or direct priming) helps us learn and react both quicker and easier
  • Any previous offers “unlocked” should also be displayed.

Forer Effect: We tend to identify with vague, mostly positive, and general personality descriptions by injecting our own meaning into it, and thus the statement seems personally relevant. For example, you would be hard pressed to find a daily horoscope you didn’t find somewhat relatable or applicable to your life!

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  • Use “relatable” language in the copy, for example, “are you the kind of person that likes to share knowledge?” Mention that your solution is perfect for ‘these kind of people’.

Belonging & Conformity: More than we are often consciously aware of, we want to be part of a peer group, community, and society in general. We prefer to behave in approval with our social groups.

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  • Social proof by way of ratings, reviews and testimonials is the best example of this. If yours is a B2B website, test adding something like “Join XXX,XXX other ABC professionals….” in the form page.
  • Using an influencer’s quote on the form page also lends approval and credibility to the product.

Base rate neglect & Base rate fallacy: We overestimate our ability to interpret numbers thrown at us. We often erroneously over-evaluate options with high numbers and percentages, ignoring what subset or base these numbers come from. For example, stating “90% of our active users rate us 5 star-rating” is misleading since the percentage of active users may be very small.

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  • Supersize your numbers and percentages by changing ‘the base’. However, care must be taken to not mislead or put forth fradulent stats.

Equivalence Framing: The way things are stated or portrayed highly influences our choices. “Equivalence framing” is the purposeful statement or portrayal of logically equivalent information in such a way that it encourages certain interpretations of the meaningful context, and discourages certain others. So, equivalency frames are often worded in opposite terms. Like gains vs. losses, full vs. empty, fat vs. fat-free, etc.

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  • Reword cost or fees as savings or investment. Reword commitment into unlimited access.

Attentional Bias: The Attentional Bias is our tendency to pay more attention to emotionally dominant stimuli and to neglect other seemingly irrelevant data when making decisions. So the more something touches us, the more attention we pay to it.

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  • This would work especially well if you have a product that conjures strong emotions and could work particularly effectively for non-profits. While riling up emotions, gets user’s attention, it is important to position the desired action as a “solution” to the problem/ need.

Focusing effect: We can only pay attention to a few things. Therefore, we have a tendency to only focus on a few aspects, excluding those that are less conspicuous.

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  • Copy on the form page be simple and should focus on very few value props and/or difference from competitors:


Paradox of Choice: If we are offered just one option, our choice is to either go for it or not. However, if we’re offered two choices, we automatically start choosing between these two, forgetting about the “or not” option existing silently in the background.

How to use ->

  • Limit the number of options shown to the user especially when choosing a plan option for subscription. Test the ideal number of plan options.

Mimicry: Mimicry refers to the (often subconscious and automatic) imitation of other people’s behavior. When others mimic our behavior, we like them more. For example, when I mimic you smiling at me during a conversation, you’ll like me more. We will also be more likely to bond together and our conversation will be much more fluent. Busuu, Fender Play

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  • Use background imagery subtly showing actual customers using the product

Self-generation memory effect: We remember information better when it’s generated by our own minds than when we read or hear it from someone else. So, if you want your customer to remember something, a highly effective strategy is to have them generate the information themselves.

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  • On your thank you page or during onboarding, you could ask customers why they bought your product.

Repetition & Direct Priming: Repetition helps us learn and react both quicker and easier.

How to use ->

  • Different steps in a form should maintain a consistent look so that it is easy for a user to parse through a long form.
  • A form with multiple steps should have the step CTA displayed and designed the same way for easy recognition and action.

Ambiguity Aversion: As per this principle, we are reluctant to accept offers that are risky or uncertain.

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  • Be specific about what happens when people click on a call to action. Test CTAs that are clearer as opposed to more generic ones such as “Submit” or “Continue”.

This post reviewed the content in the CXL mini-degree on conversion optimization.

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