One of the reasons you have a website is to communicate with your followers and customers. Most of the time the direction of communication will be from you to them. In fact, most aspects of web design are focused on communications flowing outward from the website owner to the website visitor.
It’s often better to try to visualize your website as a two-way communication channel. You certainly need to publicize your products and services, and to give customers and prospective customers information that they’re looking for. But you’d probably also like to know certain things from and about them. For example, if they’re looking for something specific on your website but can’t find it, wouldn’t you want to know?
The most common way of facilitating this communication back to the website owner is through the use of an HTML form. You’ve probably seen this as a “contact us” form that appears on many websites – there’s a good chance you have one of these forms on your website already. Sometimes not enough attention is paid to forms, so they can actually be detrimental to the relationship you’re trying to build with your customers.
Don’t Request the Same Information Multiple Times
For example, HTML forms almost always need to go through some sort of “validation” process. The reasons for this are twofold. First of all, if the website visitor doesn’t enter their email address or telephone number correctly, then it will be impossible for you to contact them. Meanwhile, they’ll think you’ve simply forgotten about or ignored their inquiry. The second reason is to protect against malicious attacks on your website. HTML forms that are processed without checking the user submissions for dangerous text can often wreak havoc on your website.
If the validation process detects an error, you want to give the visitor a chance to re-enter their information. But if only one of the pieces of information they entered was improper, you don’t want to make them fill in every other data field again. Instead, send the user back to the form to re-enter the problematic information, but pre-populate the form with the correct information they already entered. It’s relatively easy to program this into the code that handles the form.
Be Careful What You Ask For
From a user’s perspective, being asked information that seems irrelevant to the purpose of form can sometimes drive them away. For example, if a visitor wants to ask a question about one of your products, then you might ask them for their name, email address and their question. The average consumer would expect to be asked for this information.
However, if you decide to use that inquiry form to try to collect detailed demographic information about your website visitors, it simply might lead to them not asking completing the form (and perhaps not coming back to your website). If your product inquiry form also asked them for their gender, age and the city and state they live in, many people would decline to provide the information (and think negatively of your company). Worst case, some people might provide fake information, which would actually do harm to your data collection efforts. If you need to ask this information for demographics and to serve them better, let them know why you’re asking it.
Approach your website forms as if you were being asked to complete the form, and let that guide you.
Remember that the purpose of your website forms is to facilitate greater communication (in terms of frequency as well as the nature of communication), so you want your forms to be easy to find, easy to complete and not overreaching.Please feel free to subscribe to my newsletter below and I'll talk to you about business strategies that I recommend and results I've experienced myself that you might not see here on the blog -- when you do the work, you'll see results.