Web Forms - Keep it Simple, Stupid


There are many barriers to conversion – quality, price, immediacy, trust, efficacy, to name but a few so the need to make it simple for a prospective customer to enquire about your services is obvious, right? RIGHT? Why then do so may online businesses get this wrong?

The obvious reason is because they don’t invest in conversion rate optimisation – or at the very least even think about the user for at least a moment. An application of a blend of web psychology and data analysis can help increase conversion rates, improve user experience and (end goal) increase sales revenue. A pleasant user experience would encourage word of mouth (or even better, social shares), enhancing branding also. And stakeholders could learn more about their target market along the way. It’s a no-brainer right?

In the past, I have examined contact forms, but here I want to look at other web form faux pas to (hopefully) emphasise the need for all online businesses to evaluate their conversion path and think about the all-important user.

Web Forms – TEST THEM!

Aside from a multitude of insurance engines that state ‘free quote’ but then capture your details after you toil through a multipage form and then state that ‘an agent will be in touch’, there are other examples of poor web forms:

British Gas offer a pain-staking six stage form with such irritating and non-essential questions as ‘middle initial’, ‘is your email address work or personal’, and ‘how long have you been living at your address?’. Don’t worry though as there are only six pages of this. It isn’t as if people have busy lives or anything.

Online Booking Forms

Pizza Express so nearly get it right with their online booking form. Simply type your location, add the date, time and how many people and ‘check availability’.

You’re then offered a choice of the three nearest Pizza Express restaurants to your location. Select the restaurant then double check the date/time and input your details. All very quick and easy, but right next to the ‘Confirm my booking’ button there is a ‘back’ button. *CONVERSION CLAXON*

What possible reasoning could there be for having a button right next to the button that you want users to press, and to boot, a button that would lose the data the user has already input? By employing a Nuke Button, you’re risking losing customers. Think about it.

Make it easy for existing customers

Huge amounts of time and investment is spent on winning business, so why give customers an excuse to take that hard-earned business elsewhere?

Let’s use an example that all of you can appreciate. Imagine you’re at home, desperate to tune in to another episode of Breaking Bad/Sons of Anarchy/House of Cards on Netflix. We’re talking the kind of TV that gets under our skin, keeps us wanting more, clucking for our next fix. But oh no, your connection is down. Damn you Virgin/Sky/BT/Internet provider! You’re gonna have to troubleshoot – or failing that, enquire about your issue to get it fixed ASAP - and you’d rather do this online now than have to phone a call centre half way across the world – or in Scotland.

Virgin Media provide a classic example of how to make it difficult for your customers. Hitting the homepage is a minefield in itself, but having found my way to the Existing Customers dropdown menu it still isn’t abundantly clear where I need to go in order to troubleshoot my issue.

Minefield - don’t sell me stuff, I have a problem. Fix it fast!

Let’s take a look at the options:

The link I need to click is actually the Service Status link, but who would think of that when they’ve lost internet connection and want to troubleshoot? Service Status? Mine is that I don’t have any service! HOW DO I FIX IT, I NEED MY SONS OF ANARCHY FIX! No thought for the user whatsoever. Keep it simple, stupid.

To see an example of troubleshooting that works, look at Sky. It’s important to stress that having worked for BSkyB, I’m no fan of Rupert Murdoch’s corporation so there is no bias here whatsoever, but you gotta give credit where credit is due.





3 thoughts on “Web Forms - Keep it Simple, Stupid

  1. Hi James - great post on central importance of simplicity and avoiding offering inappropriate choices.

    Only thing I’d say is that simplicity isn’t the only criteria - ultimately you are looking for the sweet spot between what you want (as the website/business) and what the visitor wants. For example you may want more as much information as possible, but for the visitor they may want to give the least possible to obtain whatever it is they seek. Testing can allow you to find the right trade off around gaining information and losing conversions. Sometimes increased conversions are gained by passing issues onto other parts of the business, so the gained at that point aren’t always without wider costs.

    take care ….

  2. Hi Mark, very good point. I would challenge that by saying that if an increase in conversion rate threw up internal, operating issues then surely that’s a good headache to have? A big part of what we do at High Position with CRO is highlighting not only issues that need improving, but facets of a business from a user perspective that the company didn’t even know existed. This can then be used to their advantage (but only if they take our advice :) ).

  3. Hi there - that’s an interesting one. An example of the type of issue I’m pointing at would be an online quote process for an insurance company. The longer the form then likely the lower the conversion rate. Drastically simplify, and your conversion rate will probably shoot up.

    However, not all business is good business - the less well qualified the sales (conversions) are, the more trouble you’ll have down the line, when it comes to claims time. Could easily put you out of business if you are not prequalifying them heavily.

    So just pointing out that conversion rate needs to be seen in a wider business context - higher is not always better!

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