If there's one thing we've learned from working with clients of wildly different industries, it's that there is no one magic form that works for every website. Every small business is different, and the information you ask of someone who comes to your website should reflect your company's intentions.
When considering form design, we must first ask ourselves: why would a user fill out our form? What are they getting in return? If you think about it, you're asking a visitor to your site to trust you enough to provide you with their information. Before they engage you, they want to know two important criteria:
1. The reputation of the brand they're interacting with
2. What's in it for me
These are important to remember, because if you're a newer business, you're not going to have the reputation of someone who is already well established, such as Amazon. This means that a user is going to be more likely to fill out a lengthy submission form if it's something they know has years and years of research and accountability behind it. Therefore, if you're a small business, keep things simple. Often times, a name and an email address will suffice. This minimizes the work on the customer's end, makes your design more compact, and allows you to build an e-mail list that can establish trust (and sales).
When you limit what you ask for, while providing a source of expert information, your customer is going to be more likely to take you up on your offer. For example, some businesses will continually update their content and offer it for free to their readers. Then, in order to increase their readership via an email newsletter, they'll offer users a free ebook that is only available to subscribers. By doing it this way, the user continues to get content, but will also have the option of something exclusive if they submit their information.
Other times, you'll see a business offer something tangible. Square Cash gives you $1 for signing up for their money transferring service. Emergen-C offers a free sample of their product if you fill out a lengthier form.
Can you provide something to your customers, whether it is physical, or in the form of knowledge? If so, you're on the right track to better form design. What you want to do is look at your small business site from the viewpoint of a potential customer. Ask yourself, "If I was a customer, would I fill out this form?"
What do you think? Send us a comment on Facebook or a tweet to @SeafoamMedia with your thoughts!