Form or Function: What Do I Need to Know About Website Forms

By on 11/15/2012

In a similar vein as my last post, “Should I put as much information on my website as possible?”, we often create forms on our websites without ever thinking through who our customer is and what we need to know about them.  With webpages not being limited to an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper, we can tend to go a little crazy with all that we ask of our customers.  Sometimes it isn’t necessary for us to know the last three pets they had and the birthday of their second cousin’s daughter.  Below are a few questions you might ask yourself when considering what questions to ask your customers.

Website Form

Website Form

1) Who is your customer?  When considering what your form asks for and how it asks for it, this question is KEY.  You must know who your customer is.  Is it an IRS Auditor who is used to seeing lines of text fields in a form and values complete information?  Or is your customer someone who is browsing your site on their smartphone browser?  The design of the form for these two customers can be very different.

2) What do I need to know right now?  This question is often skipped for the last question.  Why does it matter what I need now, if I know I want to know X,Y and Z later?  Well it matters if that information is just extra baggage that you are asking your customer to reveal on a e-newsletter signup form.  They might not like telling you their dog’s name and birthday just to get a monthly email from you.  See this opportunity to get their foot in the door and make an easier path for them to finish their full account signup once they are on your mailing list.  Whatever your form is for, consider if you really need those extra questions right now.

3) What might I need to know in the future? When considering what to ask on your form, you must consider what you will need to know about your customer to best serve them.  There are plenty of opportunities to ask for complete information, so after considering questions #1 & #2 above, make sure to get all the information that you need and will need.   The more you know about your customer the better you will be able to serve them.

When we are considering creating a form or an application requiring an “account” we always help our client understand what they need to know now and in the future and then how to display it in an attractive and appropriate manner to help serve their customer best.  We understand the balance that must exist and use our expertise to walk the line with precision.

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