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Testing Web Forms

It’s one of the most important aspects of any website… how people can get in touch and make an enquiry. Often the form on a website is the main lead generation point and the main conversion point. We all know that it’s not about how much traffic that you can get to a website, even though some people think it’s still the most important metric, but we generally focus on the ranking for the right keywords or “money terms” as well as the conversions from those rankings.

If you have a website, no matter what size, when was the last time that you actually tested your own forms? I’ve just done a bit of form filling for a client to make sure that all is working properly. It’s an easy thing to do and can throw out some interesting conversion barriers.

The most important thing is to make sure that the form is easy to fill in. Kean did a cool guest blog post back in February on Six Revisions on Best Practices for Hints and Validation in Web Forms which outlines the different techniques to use on forms and what are the best methods to make it as easy as possible.

Some of the things that I have come across in my little bit of testing tonight were mainly to do with the phone number entry. For the form you need to submit a landline number and a mobile number. Do people still call their fixed BT (or other provider) number their landline number, or is it best to refer to it as daytime / evening? The form also needed a mobile number. You have to cater for the people who don’t have a “landline” number, don’t have a work number as they are unemployed and, dare I say it, people who don’t have a mobile number. Also if the numbers are being used for a call back its useful to be able to nominate a number that you’d prefer to be called back on.

When people are entering numbers to a website form, there needs to be something that copes with the different ways people may add their number. For instance if I was adding my work number for Bronco I could type 01765608530, or 01765 608530 or (01765) 608530. Does the form cope with these differentials? Also if a number isn’t added into one of the fields will it prompt them to fill in the field …. but what it they just add in a random digit, does it still pass the form or should the form verify the number with a database of real numbers?

The most important thing to check is that the form is actually getting through to where it should be as you could be losing business with a broken contact / enquiry form. Then the next most important page after the contact form is how you confirm that the information has been sent and to outline what the next steps or the response time will be. This helps to reassure the customer that they have contacted the right people and you are going to deal with their request or enquiry promptly before they look elsewhere.

6 Comments

  • Dom Hodgson

    checking that email contact forms also work as well is a big one (and they arn’t tagged as spam), its something that we missed on a project and we missed a few things,

    Recently we switched to http://www.highrisewidgets.com/ for our CRM service link in and it certainly has improved my response management

  • Kean

    When it comes to form information the developer has to ensure that the inputs accept as wide a range of information as possible and then provide suitable validation if the input is in fact wrong. Spaces in phone numbers do not count as an error, yet some sites seem to think they do.

    Labelling form fields correctly is also important, when it comes to telephone numbers simply ask for a ‘telephone number’ and leave it up to the user whether or not to add their landline or mobile number. They will probably add the number they are most likely to be available at.

  • James

    I usually just type random numbers into the telephone number fields anyway, then edit them as necessary to get them past whatever validation they’re using.

    What do they want my telephone number for anyway? That’s not usually mentioned.

  • Dave

    Its also very important that form field validation routines protect against malicious inputs and that you thoroughly test your forms for security vulnerabilities. These can be easily exploited by malicious users for injection attacks (e.g. xss).

  • Eric G

    Becky,

    After years of creating simple websites for our customers with the requisite web form, we decided to create Lead Zeppelin (www.leadzep.com).

    We found that many of our clients were terrible at managing the leads that they received from their web forms, and needed a place to collectively manage these leads. Since many of our clients had small budgets, they couldn’t afford us building out a web app to manage their leads, so Lead Zeppelin was born.

    I hope you check it out and find it worthwhile!

  • poker online

    Great post. Form Design is crucial and practically no one pays attention to it. I was unaware that “it means that once a user enters any data, the label disappears and cannot be referred back to when reviewing the form either before or after submission”.

    Where can I find more about that? Thanks!