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31/08/21 Mike Ellis

The essentials for online forms

How an online form is laid out has had a lot of debate over the years. With many claiming the perfect number of fields to ensure conversion. But the truth of the matter is that there is no magic number of fields. It is entirely contextual to what you need and want the form to do.

So instead of talking about the number of fields. I instead wanted to highlight some essential functionality that every form should have – regardless of context.

Number keyboards

Most forms require some number entry, usually phone numbers so having an easy way to enter numbers is crucial right?!

Unfortunately, too many forms out there are still making users switch from the text keyboard to a number keyboard on mobile phones. While this doesn’t sound like the biggest hassle in the world. It is one small thing that can make the filling out of a form significantly easier.

iPhone Number Keyboard

This is simple to do from a development point of view and is just lazy if overlooked.

@ sign

On the same theme as number keyboards. The @ sign is required for anyone entering an email address. So again, why do so many forms require you to switch keyboards.
It is simple enough to create a keyboard for your users that has this on as standard. Again, stopping them from having to switch between several keyboards while filling it out.

Email Keyboard iPhone

Although we cannot stop someone from having so many unusual characters that they have to do this regardless… di@bol!callyCh&ll£nged@gmail.com im looking at you!

Field Labels

It's obvious that any form will have entry fields, so it makes sense to have labels for these as well. We are not talking about the heading that says Full or Second Name. I am talking about within the field itself.

This adds further clarification to what is needed. We strongly recommend adding in some placeholder text as standard. For example, underneath the email you can have example@example.co.uk.

Form Field Labels

Secondly if they do get stuck there is help ready and waiting for them. Reducing the chance of them abandoning the form, saying they will try again later, but never actually returning. 

Error messages

Sometimes to make sure the users give you the right information to service them properly you need to create mandatory fields with certain criteria. A simple one for example is that the email must contain the “@” symbol.

In this instance a form can be validated before submission, telling the user there is an error. Great, but what’s the error?

Form Error Message

Not telling the user what is wrong is a horrendous crime. They have filled out the form, as per your instructions and not all you give them is “computer says no...” (add image?)

If the form errors due to a user entering the wrong information you need to tell them why and how to fix it. This gets more complicated for forms where a lot of different information is needed such as insurance companies. But for basic websites this can be as simple as… ”your email address must contain an “@” symbol”.

By not offering this help you are asking your users to go and try elsewhere.

A Clear CTA

Finally, the end of a form should clearly inform the user of what they are doing. Having a simple “Submit” CTA is not going to gut it. What are they submitting to, are they submitting to you?

Within even touching on the negative connotation associated with “submitting” there are thousands of other appropriate CTAs to use. While it all depends on content below are just a few that can be used. Hopefully you will be able to figure out where they need to be used.

Form call to action button

Within even touching on the negative connotation associated with “submitting” there are thousands of other appropriate CTAs to use. While it all depends on content below are just a few that can be used. Hopefully you will be able to figure out where they need to be used.

  • Final Step >
  • Complete Transaction >
  • Enter Shipping Details >
  • Start Application >
  • Send Application >
  • Apply Now >
  • Request a Call Back >

Think about what the user's next step is. The CTA should properly reflect that to set expectations. Imagine clicking a button that says, “buy now” and not actually buying it and being asked for more details? You know who you are?!

Mike Ellis

Just someone who likes to solve problems and help people and businesses realise their potential. I also happen to know a lot about marketing ;)