05 Oct Web Forms: The Ultimate Guide
Have you ever ordered an item online?
Considering the fact that 1.66 billion people worldwide shopped online last year, there’s a good chance you answered “yes” to that question.
Whether you know it or not, you used a web form when you placed your online order. Not only are web forms necessary for you to receive the information, goods and services you’re interacting with or buying, but they’re also crucial for the businesses that create them and embed them on their sites.
Without web forms, marketers would have a tough time obtaining information on potential customers and tracking data regarding purchases, customer feedback, new leads and survey responses. In a highly digital world, it’s hard to think of a successful business that doesn’t have at least one web form on their site.
Marketers use web forms (such as contact forms, surveys, shipping forms, registration forms and quizzes) for a number of reasons — to complete an order, keep track of a customer’s personal information or collect lead information. Web forms also help businesses increase conversions by taking potential customers through the lead flow process.
This happens when a person visits your site and submits their information in return for something (such as a product, service or free trial). Once a web form is submitted by a lead, it’s then sent to a server for processing.
Web forms vary in length, format, content type and appearance — there’s no “one size fits all.” They should simply fit your business’s needs and help you gather the information you want from your leads. This also means there’s no single way to create a web form. We will review several tools and software programs that will help you create your forms later on, but first, let’s dive into why you should create web forms.
Why Should I Create Web Forms?
Web forms allow you to collect and manage information easily and efficiently. They’re embedded right into your website, which makes it easy for your leads to provide their information. Once a lead completes a form on your website, their information is stored until it’s ready for analysis. Web forms are crucial tools for businesses to obtain the information they need from their potential customers.
Use Cases for Web Forms
There are several instances in which web forms can be used. There are web forms that allow you to collect contact information, shipping information, survey your customers and more. They can really be used to easily get any information you need from your leads and keep it for analysis or manage it in any way you see fit.
We will talk about the various types of web forms below, which will give you a better idea of specific use cases and which forms would fit best in certain instances.
How To Make a Web Form
Let’s discuss how to build a web form. As you follow the steps below, think about what information you really need from your leads. If your web form doesn’t make sense to your leads —if it’s complicated or asks for too much information —potential leads may lose interest and leave your site. Consider how much the offer at the end of the form is worth and adjust your web form accordingly.
Creating a web form starts with determining its purpose.
Make the Purpose of Your Form Clear
It’s crucial to make the purpose of your web form clear. Your leads should know exactly what your web form is for and why they are completing it. Here are a couple of ways to do this.
Include straightforward headers
By including straightforward headers, your leads will know exactly how to complete your form. Headers help avoid confusion and ensure your leads spend the minimum required time on your form. Examples of straightforward headers include “Contact Us”, “First Name” and “Preferred Method of Contact”.
Provide clear instructions
Clearly communicate what information you need from your leads while using the fewest words possible. At the top of your form, include a sentence or two about what you’re going to ask from your leads. You can also include a short statement about why you need that information to remain transparent with your leads.
Consider the appearance of your form
By keeping your form organized and clean, you’ll also provide your leads with an easy end-to-end experience. Nobody wants to waste time reading long paragraphs of information just to find whatever it is they’re looking for. Additionally, cluttered text simply looks unprofessional. Within seconds, your leads will know whether or not you took the time to thoughtfully create your form.
Why should you improve web form usability?
- You create a simple transaction.
- You will build trust.
- You will appear more professional.
- You will increase conversions.
By clarifying your web form’s purpose, your visitors will know exactly which form they need to complete and why specific questions are being asked of them. Whether it’s a shipping form, a sign-up form, a survey or quiz, you want your visitor’s experience to be easy.
You should always state the purpose of your form fields. They could say something like, “This web form will be used to get some more information about you so we can tailor our newsletter content towards your background, experiences, and interests.” By ensuring your web form’s purpose is clear, you build credibility and trust between your business and lead.
When you visit another company’s website that’s designed in a way that screams “customer first,” you’re likely to feel that the business is professional and thoughtful. The same goes for web forms. Stating the purpose of your web form avoids confusion, shows that you’re a forward-thinking company, and communicates that you care about your visitors’ experience on your site.
By increasing web form usability and creating a positive overall web form user experience, your business will experience a greater number of conversions. By simply making your form easy to use, clear and visually pleasing, your leads will want to complete it and become customers. Fixing small issues related to user experience helps businesses experience an improvement in their conversion rates by 75%.
By improving your web form usability and prioritizing the design and context of your form, you’ll enhance user experience and get website visitors excited and about completing your form and converting.
Choose Your Web Form Type
The purpose of your web form informs what type you should use, as well as which questions to ask and how you should format your responses.
Here are some common types of web forms to consider. (We will review examples of each of these types of web forms shortly.)
Contact forms are used for leads to ask your business a question, voice a concern or even explain their need for a refund. These web forms typically contain fields that require leads to list their name, contact information and order number. They may also have a drop-down or text-entry field for leads to explain their reason for reaching out and their preferred method of contact.
Lead generation form
These web forms convert your website visitors into leads. They typically require personal information, such as a name, company, email address, phone number and sometimes a username and password for return visits to the site.
Order forms do exactly what you’d expect them to do — they allow your website visitors to place orders. They also provide customers with a way to pay for items and have the products they have ordered sent directly to them (or to whomever the item is for). Order forms are detailed, as they often require a credit card, shipping and billing information, and your contact information.
A registration web form is similar to the two forms listed above but is used for a different purpose. A lead would complete a registration web form if they were interested in signing up for your service. This is common on sites such as Craigslist, Ebates, and eBay. If a lead was looking to list an item on one of these sites, they would complete a registration form to create an account and then post the item.
Survey web forms may include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank and long-form responses. They are used to learn more about your customer’s experiences with your products and services. They also help you improve future interactions with your customers, as well as educate leads about the ways in which your business can help them.
Incorporate Your Form Fields
Think about what responses you need from your leads when you begin creating your form fields. By starting with the answers you need, you’ll be able to determine how to title your form fields, what questions to ask and which types of fields you actually need your visitors to complete. Regardless of what you’re asking your visitors, you should always require their basic contact information (such name and email address) so you can identify individual submissions.
Form fields on a software like HubSpot are predefined, meaning you have several previously created options to pick from and add to your form. In HubSpot, drag-and-drop features allow you to easily build your form however you want. Once you determine which type of form you want, review the predefined form fields and begin creating your form.
If you are asking your leads questions that require detailed answers, you can create short or long-text entry fields that accept one sentence up to a paragraph or two. There are also several other field-entry types for you to include in your forms such as multiple choice, drop-down menus, check boxes, radio buttons and more.
Embed Your Web Form On Your Website
Once you create your web form, it’s time to embed it on your website. This is how your website visitors will access your form. Start by determining where you want your form located on your website.
Decide where to embed your form
Determine which page of your website should include the web form. For example, do you want your email signup located on the bottom of your main landing page? If you have a contact form, is there a page on your website solely meant for visitors who want to contact you? And if someone purchases an item, do you have your web forms in an order that makes sense (first shipping, then billing and payment)?
How to embed your form
To embed your form, software programs like HubSpot simply require you to copy and paste the form’s code into the desired location on your site. When web forms are embedded published, website visitors can start the completion and submission process. You will then begin receiving data about your leads that will be crucial for maintaining a healthy business.
If you are using a website creator or external website, you can still embed your code from HubSpot’s form builder into your site’s source code (the collection of code used to build your website).
How to Make Your Web Form Secure
Data protection has become a top priority for businesses and consumers alike. A secure web form that ensures your leads’ data is protected will result in more submissions. With HubSpot’s form builder, creating a secure form for both your business and your leads is easy.
The form builder stops spam submissions from coming through with an email address validation process. This ensures only real email addresses can be submitted in your web forms. HubSpot also allows people to add CAPTCHAs, which are the questions at the end of a form that require people to confirm they’re not a robot. These act as a second layer of protection against spam.
Lastly, HubSpot allows you to block specific email providers and domains that you determine are unnecessary to receive submissions from.
Test Your Web Form and Analyze Your Results
Once you create your web form and embed it on your website, make sure it works! Think about things from your visitor’s point-of-view. Do they have enough space to respond to a question in the short-text entry field? If not, try switching over to the long-text entry field and see how their responses change.
If you receive the same feedback repeatedly from your website visitors, try altering the form or adding different form fields to improve the experience for your leads. Your customers and leads should be your top priority when it comes to all of your marketing tactics, including your web forms.
If you set up email notifications on your web form creator software, you should double check that these are working as well. You can do this by going to the web form on your website, completing it as a lead would and making sure you receive an email notification about the form being completed. If it doesn’t work, try working through the email notification set up again.
Congrats! You have just completed the creation of your web form. Now, let’s review some design tips that will enhance the user experience of your web form.
Web Form Design Tips
When creating and reviewing your web form, consider some of the following design tips that will make your form easy-to-use, effective and helpful for both your business and your leads.
By keeping your web form as direct as possible, you make the experience better for your leads. You will also avoid any possible confusion. To be more direct, you can create a web form header, use clear form field titles, place your web form in a location on your website that makes sense and remove non-essential wording.
Use Correct Form Fields
Use form fields that make sense to your leads and provide you with the answers you’re looking for. If your leads need to give you information in paragraph format, then include long-text entry fields. If they only need to write a few words or a sentence, include short-entry fields. For something like a survey, add multiple choice responses, and for any questions that could have several answers, use checkboxes or radio buttons.
Using input constraints
Consider using input constraints for specific form fields. For example, if you know you only need one sentence in your short-entry form field, add a constraint that ensures your lead can only provide you with one sentence. This will save time for your lead and the form reviewer.
Add a Form Submit Button
By adding a form “Submit” button, your website visitors will be able to complete the web form and send it to the server without any hesitation or confusion. It will also make them feel confident that you and your fellow employees will receive their submission and listen to whatever it is they have to say.
Organize Your Form
If you have a long and detailed web form, make it easy to read and complete for your leads by keeping everything in one column. The only time you’ll want to keep form fields on the same line is when it makes sense to the reader. For example, keep information such as a date (day, month and year) on one line. By keeping all other form fields in a single column, you’ll avoid your lead feeling overwhelmed or bombarded by questions.
Make Your Form Visually Appealing
As mentioned earlier, appearance matters when it comes to all of your marketing content. Did you know that it takes an average of 50 milliseconds for a website visitor to look at your website’s landing page and determine whether or not they want to stay?
Web form first impressions matter, too. Brand your forms to make them look professional from the moment a lead lands on your page. They should match your company’s aesthetic to ensure consistency and promote a polished look. Consider colors, text font and size, and layout. Keep things clean and organized to ensure a positive experience for your leads.
Use Smart Fields
Imagine you already have an account on a website and you are completing a different web form on that same site. If that form field asks you some of the same questions that a previous web form asked, wouldn’t you feel as though you are wasting your time?
Smart fields are a great feature to keep your leads from having to do any unnecessary work. HubSpot uses smart fields to remove form fields that a customer or lead has previously submitted. Smart fields make your business and website appear more professional by providing a smooth process for your leads or customers, and removing the frustration of filling out the same information multiple times.
Using smart defaults
Have you ever started completing a web form that automatically filled in your zip code based on your current location? That’s a smart default. This feature also speeds up the web form completion process and creates a seamless user experience.
Include Error Messages
When a lead is completing your web form, you should tell them whether or not they are doing it correctly. Include error messages if they accidentally provide you with an area code that doesn’t exist, add their state to the “Town” field or are exceeding the character limit.
Again, this not only saves time for your leads but it also keeps things simple when you need to review the submitted content. HubSpot’s form builder does this and even gives leads suggestions based on the information they submitted.
Explain Why You Are Asking For Specific Content
Imagine you were completing a web form on another business’s website and you notice a question that asks for your credit card information … but you aren’t buying anything. You might find yourself thinking, “Well, this is sketchy … ” or “Am I going to be charged for something without even knowing it?”
This is an easy way to lose a lead or compromise your credibility.
To avoid this, include information on your web form that explains why you’re asking for specific information. By anticipating questions your leads may have, you will come off as professional, thoughtful and customer-oriented.
Web Form Examples
Examples are a great way to get inspired and improve your own marketing practices. Here are some examples that demonstrate each of the five web form categories mentioned above.
Source: Sun Bum
Sun Bum has a contact form on their website that enhances user experience. The form is on a contact landing page. The web form looks clean and organized, and the form fields make sense for the form’s purpose. Users are able to select the reason why they are contacting Sun Bum, how they want to be contacted by the company, provide their contact information and write the company a message (in a long-text entry form field).
Sun Bum even has a unique name for their contact form, “Ask the Bum,” that meshes with their brand and resonates with users. The submit button, or the “Ask the Bum” button, is easy to see and reminds users that they are interacting with a company that has personality.
Source: Sun Bum
Help Scout has a lead generation form on their site that allows leads to quickly create an account. The web form has a header that states what the form is for and it only requires a few pieces of personal information (company, name and work email) to create an account.
This Help Scout web form has a nice layout for users and keeps all fields contained in a box. The layout of the form fields makes sense as well — the fields for a lead’s first and last name are side-by-side and the rest is in a column format, which helps visitors work through the form step-by-step.
Starbucks has two online order web forms that customers complete when they want to send a gift card. The first web form introduces the chosen gift card and includes a toggle button, a few fill in the blank short-text entry form fields and a calendar to select the date in which the gift card should be delivered.
Once that information is submitted, customers are brought to a second page with a detailed order form. This one includes form fields in a single column (except for the date fields which make more sense to be placed next to each other) and ask for the customer’s shipping and billing information.
The use of multiple web forms allows customers to take things one step at a time. They are straightforward, have clear headings and state why Starbucks needs certain information like the customer’s email and the recipient’s email. Although the second web form is long, customers can easily follow along.
When someone wants to list their home on Airbnb, they first need to register for an account. Airbnb has simple registration web forms that get hosts excited about listing their space on the site — allowing potential hosts to discover how much money they could make through their listing. Who wouldn’t want to make an extra $2,622 per month?
Airbnb takes their potential hosts through several web forms and allows them to work through the process at their own pace. The web forms are also visually pleasing and match the company’s look and style.
WebMD has a symptom survey that allows website visitors to self-diagnose through a series of questions. The survey includes several web forms with various form fields. The final web form submission takes patients to a landing page that includes a possible diagnosis. The web forms are an efficient and effective way for patients to get the answers they are looking for.
Now that we have reviewed the ways you can create your own web forms, as well as examples that you can learn from, let’s review some tools and programs that will help you build your desired forms.
Web Form Tools and Software Programs
There are a number of online form creators and software programs that businesses can use to get information from their leads. Some form builders are free, some require a subscription fee and some have features that work for different types of forms and businesses.
JotForm is an easy-to-use web form software. It’s is a free online form builder that allows businesses to not only create and embed their web forms but to also receive notifications via email whenever a form has been completed. With JotForm, anyone can create their desired, customized web forms in a matter of minutes.
Formstack allows businesses to build their web forms, monitor them, and use conversion tools to analyze data received through the forms. Companies are able to brand their forms and integrate them with other apps they may be using to control their workflows (such as MailChimp, Google Sheets, PayPal or Hubspot).
WPForms is the WordPress contact form plugin. This plugin has a drag-and-drop feature that easily moves your contact form from the plugin to your website in a matter of seconds, making it one of the most straightforward contact form builders available.
With multiple contact form templates to choose from, businesses can create a form that works for their needs. Additionally, the plugin notifies you when a lead completes your form, has a mobile-friendly design and integrates with a number of other apps.
Drupal is an open source CMS (content management system) that contains a web form creator module called Webform. The module allows Drupal users to create surveys and forms and manage the results on a spreadsheet application. The module also has basic statistical review features so businesses can keep track of what is working and what needs to be modified.
Source: Type Form
Type Form allows business to create forms, surveys, quizzes and more for their websites. The software also has a sophisticated way of keeping track of data and results from all forms across a given site. The web forms are not only easy to create, but they can be quickly embedded and are compatible on all devices.
Source: Type Form
HubSpot’s form builder has easy-to-use, drag and drop features that allow you to efficiently create, embed and publish your ideal form. One feature that is unique to HubSpot’s form builder is that it uses progressive profiling.
Progressive profiling prevents anyone from having to complete the same form fields multiple times, ensures your business is not getting duplicate responses and keeps things as simple and professional as possible for both the lead and the business using the form builder.
Web forms will help you track online leads, follow up with clients and potential customers, learn more about your buyer personas, enhance user experience and provide your leads with the information, services and products they are searching for. Your web forms should be straightforward, simple to use and visually pleasing. This is how your business will ensure a professional, user-friendly experience on your website.
A successful web form will lead to an increase in your number of leads and conversions. So, why not get started creating web forms that’ll help you grow your business and expand your network today?