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Marc Schenker
Marc Schenker is a writer and expert in business and marketing topics like e-commerce, B2B, digital marketing and design. He is a regular contributor to various, highly ranked publications such as Shopify and Web Designer Depot. To find out what really makes him tick, head on over to
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The sign up form is one of your main communication channels and in many cases the only place on a web page where true interaction between you and your customers occurs. In all cases, it is a significant point in the brand-consumer relationship. Therefore, the interaction should be as smooth as possible. Optimize your forms for a better user experience, and you’ll see better engagement and conversion rates because of it. Fail to do so, and prepare for your site visitors to leave and never return. So how do you construct forms that guarantee the former and avoid the latter? Start with the best practices covered in this article:

Limit your form fields
When it comes to form fields, in most cases, less is more. Research consistently shows that fewer form fields translates to more conversions. For instance, a case study from VMO demonstrates how
the removal of just three fields led to a conversion lift of 11 percent
. When Blivakker, a Norwegian online beauty shop, cut their fields down from 17 to 14, they saw an 11 percent increase in registrations. Another study, by
research lab Marketing Experiments
, shows similar results. David Kirkpatrick describes how Marketo cut its nine-field form to seven fields, resulting in a 20 percent increase in conversion rate. When they cut the form down to just five fields, the conversion rate increased by 34 percent. In most cases, all you need to ask is for the visitor's email and password. You can get the rest of the info later.
Make it easy
In addition to using fewer form fields, make your forms overly simple to fill out. This will spare your users their time, making it more likely that they’ll convert. There are many ways to accomplish this. For example,
if you need an address
, ask for a zip code, and the city and state are already filled out! Or use a drop down menu that
predicts the outcome
so visitors can move through the form faster. Idealist.com provides a dropdown like this which completes the city, state, and country for users so that it’s easier for users to input their location.
Include benefit-rich copy
Sometimes conversions result from the quality of the copy itself. Though you can’t influence leads much with in-field copy (name, email address, etc.), you have a great opportunity to persuade them with the headline and surrounding copy. This is what directs user attention to your signup form in the first place. Content Verve performed a study on persuasive form copy, and found that demonstrating benefits, relevance, and value dramatically increases conversions. By adding relevance and value to a newsletter sign-up form, the company boosted conversions by 83.75 percent.
In addition, including benefits (see: "Get FREE Betting Tips", and “Get the Best Daily Tips") increased conversions by 31.54 percent.
Use psychological triggers
Marketing tactics work best when they’re based on sound, psychological principles. For instance, B.F. Skinner’s
operant conditioning
works on the idea that behavior which gets rewarded is reinforced, while behavior that gets punished is deterred (and eventually eliminated). Let’s take a look at how that plays out on the sign up form…
This image represents the pop-up windows for TheSkimm newsletter signup. As site visitors go to close out, the form appears, showing just one field for the visitor’s email address, and supporting copy that plays off of this concept: “No thanks, I prefer to be miserable in the morning.” This tactic works to deter users from leaving without submitting their email address in exchange for the newsletter. Another psychological trigger used here is social proof. By showing people that “millions of others” have signed up, users are even more inclined to participate for fear of missing out. Content Marketing Institute does this as well:
Testimonials have the same effect.
Offer social media signups
Social media still rules and can absolutely work to your advantage in your sign-up forms. Since a mind-blowing
65 percent of all American adults today use social media
, persuading them to fill out a sign-up form using their existing social media accounts is a no-brainer. Marketing guru
Neil Patel
writes, “the frictionless one-click signup of an existing account is attractive to users and has a pretty good conversion rate.” People still perceive filling out forms — even those with just a few fields — as time-consuming. But clicking a button to sign up with an existing social media account is simpler and much more effective. Buffer uses this approach for it's account creation:
The company gives site visitors the option of entering their email address and password to create an account or choosing a social media site to sign in with, thereby minimizing barriers to entry and streamlining the sign up process. According to
one company
, social login can increase registration rates by up to 50 percent.

Utilize single-column alignment
Two or more columns gets confusing for visitors when tabbing, so make your forms single-columned for better ease of use. Plus, natural user behavior is to scan a page from top to bottom. The single-column form layout promotes this pattern. Added bonus: This form design performs better on mobile devices.
Stripe’s registration sign-up form is a good example of this streamlined approach to form design. When the signup process is more efficient, leads and conversions will naturally increase.
Conclusion
Creating the perfect web form is at the intersection of design, user experience, and marketing psychology. All three areas are closely related when it comes to conversion rate optimization, so marketers of all stripes should be familiar with these best practices. To secure more conversions, whether a lead capture or outright sale, remember to use:
  • Fewer fields
  • Drop downs and predictive text
  • Persuasive form copy
  • Psychological triggers
  • Social media signups
  • Vertical and single-column alignment


Ready to dig deeper?
Stay tuned for our next post, where we discuss 8 high-converting places to put your sign up forms.
Continue on to part two
.
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