Think about the last time you filled out an online form. What is easy or confusing? Short or long? Simple or complicated? Online forms are powerful tools for gathering key information about your prospects and customers. But how they look, feel, and function can make or break a user’s experience.
New users often make mistakes that can ultimately influence conversion rates. If a form frustrates or confuses users, they may never finish adding their information or hit submit. The unfortunate result? Fewer leads and missed opportunities — even the possibility that you’ve lost that user for good.
Recognizing common design mistakes and making adjustments is the best way you can build user-friendly web forms that are optimized for conversion.
Form Building Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)
Building effective web forms involves knowing best practices for design, layout, and formatting. You don’t have to be a design master to build a user-friendly form that converts. But you will need to avoid or fix the following design mistakes.
Mistake #1: No Clear Purpose for Collecting Data
Before you ever begin building and designing your web form, you must first understand its purpose. Are you gathering leads at a trade show? Signing up new users on a paid account? Asking for user feedback after a webinar? Each of these forms requires that you gather specific information from an individual.
But not all information, aside from their name or email, will be relevant for every form. Forms with redundant or irrelevant fields cause friction that can delay the submission process or lead to form abandonment.
Solution: Determine the absolute essential data you need to collect through your form, and don’t ask for anything else. In other words, think like the user. What would cause you to abandon a form or raise concerns about data privacy?
This principle of “data minimization” is both a user experience and a security best practice. The less stale data you have in your CRM, the less risk of it being lost or stolen.
Mistake #2: Overwhelming Colors, Fonts, and Layout
When you think of web form design, it’s easy to envision bright colors and decorative fonts that make a statement. Similarly, you may be tempted to add multiple form fields in each row instead of sticking to a single-column layout (a common practice that helped limit paper forms to a single page). For digital forms, garish colors and fonts, visual distractions, and cluttered layouts take away from the user experience — not add to it.
Now, this doesn’t mean you must abandon the branding that makes your organization memorable. Consistency between your forms and website is a key part of great web form design. Simply use discretion. Ideally, your form font should match your organization’s branding, but avoid using script fonts or color pairings that don’t follow accessibility guidelines.
Solution: When building your forms, keep in mind the design concept of “less is more.” Your goal is to get form submissions. Choose legible sans or sans serif fonts and format fields to a single left-aligned column. Keep colors to a minimum, and use them to denote error messages or highlight the submit button.
Mistake #3: Unclear Language and Explanations
Complex words, industry jargon, vague error messages. Do your form labels, hints, error messages, and submit button text leave your users guessing? Does your form make it clear which fields are required or which need specific formatting (such as phone or email)?
Failing to provide clear language or explanations can lead to a poor user experience.
Consider a healthcare web form that asks users about “treatment modalities.” While this is a common phrase among healthcare professionals, a typical patient may not understand the jargon. Asking the user to select the “types of treatment” for a past illness will still be specific, but much more clear.
Solution: Be as clear and specific as possible when giving direction for formatting, validation, and error handling. The more assistance you can provide on your web form, the more likely users will be to complete each field correctly and submit their information. If you’re unsure the form is clear, conduct usability testing to gather feedback from your target audience.
Mistake #4: Lack of Mobile Responsiveness
Web forms that are not adapted to different screen sizes may miss capturing the maximum number of leads. A lack of formatting is the biggest threat to mobile responsiveness. This can include small text and button size, poor spacing, cut-off or overlapping elements, or inaccessible field types.
These can all diminish the effectiveness of your form. It is not enough for web forms to be accessible on a mobile device. Mobile forms must be optimized to maintain the same level of user-friendliness on a small screen as they do on the web page.
Solution: Mobile screens have less space, but require larger text size and form fields for easier touch input. Create a single-column layout with concise label text and clear spacing between form fields. Use drop-down lists to eliminate the need for users to type in empty fields. Design a large CTA button separate from other buttons to make it easy for users to submit.
Mistake #5: Neglecting Data Privacy and Security
Building a web form without addressing data privacy and data security can be a costly mistake. Many industries have strict regulations involving the collection, management, and storage of personal data. Users expect that once they submit information through a form, the organization will properly secure their personal data and be transparent about their data handling practices.
Forms that fail to meet security standards, collect unnecessary data, or mishandle personal data can lead to a loss of customer trust and brand reputation. Organizations have an ethical responsibility to prioritize data privacy and keep sensitive user data secure.
Solution: Limit access to forms that collect sensitive information and ensure proper data encryption during the collection process. Inform users about the purpose of your web form and obtain their concept before collecting or using their data. Understand and follow the data privacy laws that pertain to your industry and organization. Use a secure data collection platform like FormAssembly to help ensure you meet compliance standards.
Keep Learning Form Best Practices
Interested in more in-depth tips and best practices for building user-friendly web forms? Download the 4 Steps to Better Web Forms eBook to get started!