This is a continuation of a series of website marketing checklists. Check out all Web Marketing Checklists in this series.
What this is about: This list covers how web forms should be created as well as basic functionality, including how errors are handled when something goes awry.
Why this is important: Forms are a standard method of allowing visitors to communicate with you, including the placing orders. If forms don't work properly, frustrate your visitors or create additional roadblocks that the visitor must hurdle over, the contact/conversion rate on your site will drop drastically.
What to look for:
- Flexible entry requirements: Keep requirements for how information is entered as flexible as possible. For example don't force phone numbers to require a dash.
- Allow for tabbing between fields: Allow visitors to tab from field to field to minimize having to use the mouse.
- Proper tab order: Make sure tab order coincides with the order the fields are on the page.
- Clear field labels: Labels for input fields need to be clear as to what information is actual being required.
- Text label above field box: Place the text field label above the filed, rather than beside it.
- Only require necessary information: Don't require visitors to enter information that is not absolutely necessary for you to meet their needs.
- Minimal instructions: Minimize the use of instructions. Use them only when necessary. Remember that they are not likely to be read.
- Instructions above field: When instructions are necessary, place them above the field, not below.
- Friendly error output: When an input error is made, keep the error message friendly and polite.
- Errors obviously indicated: Make sure the field with the error is indicated in a visually obvious way.
- Errors describe remedy: Error message should describe exactly how the visitor can fix the issue.
- Errors provide contact / help option: It is helpful for error messages to provide ways for visitor to contact someone in case the error is from no fault of their own and impossible to get past.
- Preserve data with errors: When errors are made, all inputted data should be preserved so visitor doesn't have to fill out the form all over again.
- Provide pre-selected choices: When applicable, provide pre-made selection choices for certain fields.
- Don't overdo choices: Choices must be broad enough so visitors don't fall outside of the range offered.
- Note required fields: Indicate which fields are required vs. those that are optional.
- Progress indicator: Forms that spam multiple pages need a progress indicator showing visitors where they are in the process and how much more is involved.
- Progress navigation: Visitors should be able to navigate back to previous form pages to fix information they may have inputted incorrectly.
- Remove navigation: It can be a good idea to remove standard site navigation elements from form pages.
- Final info verification check: Provide a screen which confirms all the information entered before finalizing the process.
- Confirmation/thank you page: Once form is complete, drive visitors to a page that indicates the process is complete. Can be same as verification page.
- Stack fields vertically: It's a good idea to stack fields vertically rather than side by side.
- Proper use of radio buttons: Use radio buttons only when a single option is acceptable.
- Keep "submit" close to fields: The final submit button should be kept in close proximity to the input fields.
- Field boxes adequately wide: Make sure input fields are wide enough to encompass the information being inputted.
- No "reset" or "cancel" buttons: Ditch the reset or cancel buttons. Those get accidentally pushed and really piss people off.
- Autocomplete=off as necessary: Turn auto complete off on fields that should not be auto-filled in.
- Buttons denote action: Submit button should provoke some kind of action such as "place order," "go to," etc.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.