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Friction Free Forms for Marketing Ninjas

Happy New Year!

I’ve written before about the dangers of asking too much of your site visitors before you have established a meaningful, value-based relationship with them.

Now Lisa Margetis at Singlehop has reminded me of the importance of keeping any “asks” you must make of your customers as simple and pain-free as possible.

In her curiously titled “Contact Forms for the Minja” (which stands for Marketing Ninja, apparently!) infographic, Lisa illustrates how response levels and conversions fall as the number of fields in an online form increase. Using data from Dan Zarella, we can see that the optimal number of fields in a form is around 3 to 5:

More fields fewer conversions

And from Marketing Sherpa we also know which fields are most valuable to most marketers:

The fields marketers value the most

In summary, as Lisa rightly points out:

It’s all about finding the right friction

Too much friction (e.g. too many fields or hoops to jump through on your site) and people will refuse to fill out your online form. Too little friction and the data you collect are unlikely to yield sufficient insights to allow intelligent segmentation and targeted content marketing in future.

As Lisa’s infographic shows, there are many examples that prove, and sometimes disprove, the theoretical principles. But the simplest rule I think any marketer should follow is:

Only collect data that you actively plan to use.

In my experience, that’s by far the easiest way to ensure that all forms present the minimal amount of friction to your online customers and prospects.

Now go forth, learned Minja, and create beautiful, friction-free forms!

Don’t make Life Difficult for your Customers

It’s all too common. We build online content and expect visitors to register before they can gain access. Aside from the fact that asking for personal data before giving away some free content typically halves the amount of data you collect, some organisations insist on making things even more difficult than they need to be.

It’s easy to criticise government bodies like HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the UK’s equivalent of the USA’s IRS) but sometimes they make life so remarkably complicated that they deserve to be pilloried. And they’re not alone. Countless other commercial sites make similar mistakes, but hopefully your site is better.

Take, for example, this HMRC form which invites users to set up some “Shared Secrets to allow them to gain access to their account should they forget their password. This form exists to collect some easy to remember answers that are less forgettable than a site password. Yet instead of making this easy, HMRC insists that every answer must be between 6 and 15 characters long and not contain any spaces, punctuation, numbers or special characters.


Why? Because, I presume, HMRC has an antiquated IT system that is only capable of handling responses in this very precise format. Yet this constraint possibly defeats the very purpose of the exercise: to create a trust mechanism where the end-user cannot possibly get locked out of their account because their answers are unforgettable.

Like you, I don’t know of many schools, names or even places that don’t include any spaces, don’t exceed 15 characters, and lack any punctuation. Yet HMRC’s lack of foresight inflicts these rigid constraints on every user turning what should be a simple exercise into a complex memory test.

The lesson: don’t make life difficult for your customers and never make them work hard to do something that ultimately serves you rather than them. They are your customers; treat them with the care, respect and love they deserve.

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