Web form design best practices

On most sites, web form design is tied to conversions. Form optimization is a high impact activity to pay attention to.

Set clear expectations

  • Be transparent about how long it will take.
  • If your form doesn’t have to be long then make it short.
  • Tell me why I should bother. What do I get out of it?

Fewer fields are not ALWAYS better

Sometimes asking for less decrease conversions.

Not asking relevant questions can cost you credibility.

Track form completion so you can tell the difference between removing unnecessary stuff and clarifying how to complete important stuff.

Long forms let people self-qualify

Deliberately increasing the number of fields improves quality.

A shorter form means more people will complete it. Only the most motivated make it to the end of a long form.

Breaking forms into multiple steps reduces perceived friction. If your form contains more than 8 fields, try a multi-step form.

Auto-fill where you can

For example, ask for a zip first so that you can derive the address.

Tell people too, “If you add your zip first we will fill in the city and state for you”

Browsers can auto-fill a lot of common form info these days. Use this.

Nobody wants to see your error message

Your top priority is to avoid errors.

  • make mandatory fields clear.
  • Confirm correct responses inline.
  • Suggest valid answers inline.
  • Provide feedback to help people stay within limits (e.g., character’s remaining).
  • Don’t be picky about formatting. Let people enter data however they want.

Now go fix some forms.

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