Best Practice For Website Contact Forms

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However, many webmasters don't consider the effect that their website forms could be having on their customer conversion rates. And of course, the more people that are completing your forms (whatever they are) - the more profitable your business can become.

Form abandonment...

A huge percentage of users abandon shopping carts and registration pages midway through completion - in many cases down solely to poor usability.

For example - do you need to ask a user for their address? Is it clear what information needs to go in which box? Are your entry fields too cluttered? Or, worse, do they look unprofessional?

The irritation factor

You've probably abandoned a form through sheer frustration. Maybe the load times are slow, maybe it's hard to see what needs to be filled in. Irritation or confusion could be costing you sales.

Try and avoid unnecessary pop-ups. If someone inputs a password that's already taken, make sure all their other data doesn't have to be re-entered to try again. Similarly, if the user submits a form with an error, make sure that the form is returned with all fields still populated with their info so that they can fix the problem.

Ask your web design company to ensure that your forms are well laid out - not cluttered or bunched.

Make it clear

Don't assume that just because you know what to do with a form that the user will.

1 Make it clear how many steps are in a form - and what info will be required
2 Use breadcrumbs or tabs to show where a user is in the sign up process
3 Make it obvious what information is mandatory, and what is optional
4 Use clear instructions to tell users where to input info
5 Use clear calls to action such as "click here to confirm payment" etc. and not clever puns and wordplay
6 Offer additional info where needed

(A good example of additional info is the CSV activation code on the back of a credit card. While most people know what this is, some do not. Include a short description of what it is and why you need it. In the end being open and transparent about the information you need will foster trust in the user.)


If you're selling products online and requesting payment details, make sure that your security certificates are up-to-date and on show. Similarly, make your privacy policy easy to see.

Make sure that every link is working correctly. Test every possible combination of information that a user might input. If they're greeted with an error page, then they will likely abandon your site. If there is a problem with the order (for example an incorrect card number) make it clear what a user needs to do (in a friendly way!)

If all of the info is correct - summarise the order info before processing. When an order has successfully gone through, make this clear to the user. Offer a summary of the transaction, including a reference number.

What about using CAPTCHA?

CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart. In other words - it's those little boxes that ask you to enter a few distorted digits or letters before completing the form.

They're designed to prevent spam. However, there is some debate whether they're really that effective at deflecting spam. More importantly, there are several case studies that clearly show a decrease in conversions with forms that use CAPTCHA. It's worth bearing this in mind before installing any kind of test.

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Oliver Pluckrose has 1 articles online

Oliver Pluckrose is the Head of Development for Online Business Solutions UK Limited (OBS Group) - a website design agency based in London. Formed in 1998, OBS Group's ethos has always been to provide simple, end user-driven web development for a sensible, fixed price.

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Best Practice For Website Contact Forms

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This article was published on 2010/04/02