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Top 7 mistakes that hurt web form conversion rates

Robert Mohns, UX Researcher
Posted on Mar 11, 2020

Bad form design is a more common problem than anyone wants to admit. Here are the top 7 mistakes you should avoid.

Bad form design can really kill the conversion rate for lead generation forms and landing pages. Often, you know what the right thing to do is, but you can’t convince the other team members! Well, here’s the data you need to win them over – by showing them how their form choices will affect their conversion rate.

Mistake #1: Too many form fields

Screenshot of a very poorly thought out registration form

NinjaForms found that conversions plummeted by 25% after adding a 5th form field on a single page.

Unbounce studied a client that increased form fills by 120%. How? They reduced their form from 11 fields down to just four.

QuickSpout shared their data on number of web form fields vs conversion rate:

  • 3 fields … 25%
  • 3–5 fields … 20%
  • 6+ fields … 15%

If you must have long forms, try splitting them up. NinjaForms found multi-part forms convert 300% better than the long, single-page versions.

Mistake #2: Using these field types

Unbounce also found that any use of a dropdown lowered all rates to 15% – regardless of how many form fields there were. In other words, a nice, efficient three-field form would lose nearly half its conversions if one of them is a dropdown.

But that’s not all!

These kinds of form fills are not winners: Age, City, State, any kind of drop down

Mistake #3: Using pop-ups & modals

Some marketers swear by those intrusive pop-ups and modals. But, Entrepreneur reports they’re “the second most detested type of ad after telemarketers.”

They can even damage your brand. Hubspot found "70% of people say they have a lower opinion of businesses that use them".

"90 to 95% of people claim to hate pop-ups with a fiery intensity”

Entrepreneur also reports that pop-ups/modals have a 2% conversion rate. If a 2% conversion is worth making 70% of your visitors think less of you… well… good luck with that.

A modal or overlay style form is fine if the user requested it by clicking a well-labeled call to action button or link. It’s unsolicited ones you must not use.

Mistake #4: Not providing quick-fill tools or smart forms

Google Chrome team’s Ani Mohan found that people hate sign-up forms on mobile even more. 54% of mobile users will quit if they have to fill in another sign-up form.

For a frictionless sign-up alternative, consider using an identity service such as LinkedIn’s “Sign In with LinkedIn”. It’s one click for your user, and you get incredibly rich profile info. Formstack found that using social media auto-fill from Facebook or “Sign up with Google” increased conversion rates by 189%.

If you’ve had any prior contact with the user, use that to pre-fill any form fields you can. All the major marketing automation tools can provide this feature – Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot, and Eloqua being the ones we see most often among our clients.

Another good approach is to add autocomplete form tags to your form fields. This prompts your user’s web browser to fill in the right fields. No external integrations or APIs required. Talk to your user experience engineer about this.

Animated image of browser field autofill

Mistake #5: Not matching your form design to the customer journey

Sales teams – the lifeblood of any B2B business – need useful information about their potential customers. So often, marketers feel pressure to over-deliver, and build forms with a dozen fields!

Top of funnel: These visitors are in discovery mode. You should ask for enough information to begin nurturing them, and no more. Having a name and email field is sufficient.

Middle of funnel: Buyers who are in the consideration and validation stage of their journey need more information. At this stage, you are offering high-value content and can reasonably expect the buyer to tell you more about themselves. Adding questions about their company size and industry are reasonable.

Bottom of funnel: When a buyer enters the purchasing stage, they’re willing to tell you a lot more. Now, at last, you can go crazy: Full name, business email, phone number, world region or zip code… go for broke.

Instapage has a ton of useful advice on making your forms match the customer journey. Go check it out.

Mistake #6: Your submit button says “Submit”

If your form’s submit button says “Submit”, “Buy”, or “Download”, you’re missing an opportunity.

Use targeted words or phrases relevant to what you are asking the user to do. Instead of “Sign up”, how about “Get my free 30-day trial” or “Get the free industry report” or “Request My Free Consultation”. These kinds of phrases lower user anxiety and build trust on an subconscious level.

Pro Tip: To write your call-to-action text, just complete the sentence “I want to…” Try out variations, and be sure to test them.

Mistake #7: Not using a form analytics tool

This is shockingly common. If you want to know why your form isn’t converting well, you should be looking at form analytics.

We love Hotjar’s Form Analysis feature. If you’re savvy with Google Tag Manager, you can add form fill tracking data into your Google Analytics. It will take longer to set up, but it’s free!

Hotjar web form analytics report
Yes, there is something wrong with this form.

VentureHarbour has a list of 7 form analytics tools you can explore, too.

You have the power!

Doing a task well is more than just avoiding mistakes, of course. But don’t repeat the same mistakes others have already made. The great thing about being human is that we can learn from other people’s experiences.

Do you have any great tips to share? Ping me at robert@imarc.com!