Web Contact Forms: Do’s and Dont’s

Listen to podcast:


Good morning, Internet fans, Ryan Perry, Simple Biz Support. Today is Thursday, November 5th, therefore it is Internet Marketing Thursday. And as usual, I have Virginie Dorn with Business Website Center on the other side. Good morning, Virginie.

Virginie Dorn: Hello, Ryan. How are you today?

RP: I’m doing good. I’m glad you are able to join me today.

VD: Yes.

VD: Do we just tell people what just happened?

RP: Sure, go ahead.

VD: Oh, I hung up on you instead of muting something, so I had to quickly… Within two seconds, I was back online, like nothing happened, and here we are.

RP: It’s all about clicking the right buttons sometimes. Speaking about clicking buttons, we’re actually talking about contact forms. So we actually want people to click buttons on your website. You have a baker’s dozen list of do’s and don’ts, regarding the contact form, or what to do, what not to do. And I think to start of, a lot of people, “Contact form. Yippee.” Throw a couple of lines of text, give me your name, your email, and what your comment is, and hit a submit button. I mean, do we really need to know any more than that?

VD: Well, yes. And I think if you can engage your prospective clients to fill out that contact form, I think it’s a great selling tool because now they’ve given you permission to engage in a discussion about your product and services. So again, if we can find the right contact form for your right target audience, and have those people fill it out, it’s half of the battle, I think. And now you can go and get back to them, answer their questions, do your sales pitch.

RP: Okay. And when you said, “the right contact form,” are there different variations? Or are you just talking about the look and feel, or the text that you put on the contact form? The one thing I do find interesting is, a lot of times the ‘contact us’ page is a… Might have a picture, there’s an address, a phone number, and then a contact form, and that’s it. But I really… A lot of times there isn’t any sales copy that says, “Hey, we’d like to hear from you.”

VD: Yeah, so there are different types of forms, and you can have more than just one form on your website, based on the section of your website where your prospective client is, you could develop a form that makes sense for that part of your website. Perhaps this one is more marketing intensive. Another part of the site might be more about technical support, and that contact form is more about requesting information to help your visitors. So, yes. And I think we would start the 13 do’s and don’ts of having a great contact form, is number one, you should know your target audience. If you don’t know who that form is going to, how you’re going to be able to assess the right form for that audience. So for instance, as you know, a younger audience might want something a little bit quicker, short, right to the point, and maybe a little trendier, than a more mature audience, they will like something a little bit more formal, and be… Browse through every field of the form. So that’s number one.

VD: Then let’s… That takes us to step number two, is you don’t want to make it too long, regardless of your target audience. If you make it too long, people don’t have time. They have things to do. You’re going to miss the opportunity. And it’s been shown again and again… I’m looking… I was looking for some statistic. We’ve done it many times, A and B testing, short form versus long form. And time after time, it’s shown that everybody’s using the short form. We have clients that actually offer both, a long version and a short version, and in all cases, nobody’s using the long version. So that tells you.

RP: Yeah. And there’s two parts to that. Not only is it time and energy. “Look, I’m busy, boom, just give me the information.” But it’s also a trust factor. If I don’t know you, and we haven’t built credibility, then why should I give you all this extra information that you’re asking, when all I want to do is maybe get a phone call, some more information. So I think the trust and credibility part is very important there also.

VD: Absolutely true. Yes. Now on the technical side, you want to make sure your contact form is user-friendly on mobile devices because more and more of your target audience or your prospective buyers are going to use a smartphone or tablet to contact you. So make sure they work well, because often times what we’ve seen is website well developed, they look great on mobile devices, but when you get to the form it’s harder to use, maybe the fields are longer than the screen size of the mobile device. That happens a lot. So make sure the forms are mobile friendly.

VD: Now if we continue of our list. Next thing we do, we have a bit of a text at the top of the contact form. Something to really encourage that visitor to fill it out. It doesn’t have to be a book, just a couple of sentences, something very friendly, very positive, very quick. So then, people again, have that incentive to fill out the form.

RP: Yeah. And that is… I think that goes back to kind of the trust and credibility that says, “Hey, we do want to talk to you.” You can’t just assume that because somebody’s on your website, that they know that you want to talk to them. I’m a firm believer that whenever you design, build, or create something for the general public, you really have to bring it down, in most cases, to the second-grade level. And part of that second-grade level mentality is, just because you put a contact form, doesn’t necessarily mean that people feel, and that’s the keyword, that they feel like you want to engage with them. So just a couple of sentences, especially with mobile, you don’t want a bunch of text in there, but just a couple of sentences that say, “Hey, we’re excited you’re here. If you have any questions we’d love to chat with you”, and depending on your industry, make it very informal and have some fun with it a little bit.

VD: Well, yes. Use a bit of humor. People like to smile. You don’t have that physical contact to you, it’s a screen. So being a little fun and positive, people appreciate that always, regardless of their personality type. Now, in talking about that, also make the design interesting and compelling. You don’t want to make it too easy and too confusing unless your target audience is very artistic and trendy. But make it a little bit nicer than the boring white-on-gray, gray-on-white contact form.

VD: Next, things to things to think about. So there’s, again, 13 do’s and don’ts. The next one would be, don’t make every field required. I understand, as a business owner, you would love to get all that information in your inbox, but the truth of the matter is people, again, the trust factor, that credibility, it’s not there yet. So you want to make as little as possible mandatory to send. I would recommend the email, and that’s about it. The email that will help you prevent spamming and if you can make it required, but everything else if possible, keep it optional.

RP: Right. And the other thing I would say to that for those people that feel that they need all this other information upfront, I think I would push back and say, “Well, you really don’t need all that information right now. What you need is for them to contact you.” So the lower you make that barrier, if it’s just a name and an email, that’s it, if that creates the connection, that’s really the most important part. Once you’ve created that connection, and you’ve started to create trust and credibility, you can send another form. Maybe it’s not a contact form, but it may be a questionnaire, or you can email the clients a link to another contact form that’s private that has all those additional questions and answers that now, they’re going to be willing to answer.

VD: Yes. You and I have a client in common and they have several contact forms on their website, long, medium-sized, short ones. One of them is on their homepage. It’s very quick. It’s either email or phone number and their first name. That is the only one used on their website. And this is a very big company. They have over a dozen locations in California, but that is the one form everybody uses, which is interesting. So again, now then, we’re both saying it verbally that prospective clients has given you permission to contact then, and then you do your sales pitch again.

VD: Now, something else to consider as things has changed over the past two years is adding a CAPTCHA to your contact form. Years ago, we would tell people not to do that. We thought, “Oh, they’re annoying, entering the security code, people can’t read it, and they don’t want to take that extra step.” Truth of the matter is, Internet security glitches over the past 24 months has greatly increased over the Internet. So a form is a great way for hackers to get into your database onto your website. So we now highly, highly recommend to put a CAPTCHA, a strong one, onto every contact form you have on your website. And it doesn’t have to be a complicated CAPTCHA. Sometimes, it could be a sum that says, “1 + 3 =”. If a client cannot say it’s four, then maybe you don’t want them as a client. So there are different types of CAPTCHA, that are now a bit more user-friendly, but are still great at fighting all those hackers out there.

RP: Yeah, definitely, and there is, on the flipside you don’t want to get all the spam.

VD: Correct. Now, another thing to consider is the send button. A lot of people just have “send” or “submit” or “next” or “go”. The truth of the matter is if you change the text slightly to something that is more catchy and more compelling like, “Click here to submit your request.” If you make it more of an affirmation, the conversion rate is actually going to be greater, and again, this is based on a lot of A and B testing we have done and other industry peers have done as well. So change the contact form. Also, visually, make it a little more interesting than just a black button. It could be kind of cute and funny, but give it a call to action.

VD: Now, I’m going… And we have about four left. Next is make sure you don’t just have “message sent” kind of a message. What could be better than that is to redirect the sender to a thank-you page? Just fill out the form, and instead of just, “Oh, we got your email”, maybe something a little bit more marketing-oriented, “Thank you, we have received your information. We look forward to get back to you.” Maybe make it seasonal. If it’s Christmas, wish them a Merry Christmas. So, again, a thank-you page is far better than just an on-screen message when the message has been sent.

RP: Alright. And the one thing that I would add on to that is that at that point, you’re caring about the user-experience. And when you can make the user-experience positive because it’s unique, it’s friendly, it’s just, again, it shows that you care, it lands to building trust and credibility with people. For years, and I still do, I fly Southwest. It’s convenient, it’s local, they fly where I want to. Most of my flights are pretty short, not an issue. When I went to Mexico earlier this year, I ended up flying Virgin America. And they still got me from point A to point B, they did it in pretty much the same time, the price was a little bit more expensive, but the user-experience was completely different on Virgin America.

RP: And that user experience is what makes a… Leaves a positive feeling in your brain that goes, “Hmm. Alright. Maybe I should consider using these people.” And if somebody is contacting you and if you’re an industry where their not just going to contact you but three or fours other companies that user experience could be that first nugget of positive where you’re making it a positive deposit if you will, psychologically into that prospect’s brain. That could results in a new sale down the road.

VD: Yes. You made a very good point there. Especially when people are shopping around and you’re just one of many they’ve contacted making that positive feel to them, will make the difference. The tipping point, choosing you versus your competition.

RP: Yeah. All that… The more and more that… As I grow my business, more and more I’m thinking about the customer experience and what is that user experience from… When they call. What they look at. How we respond. What we do. How we follow up. And I think the more you can make that customer experience a positive one, it’s just going to reap rewards for you down the road.

VD: And that’s a good point to the next three points we have for today. And the next one is to make sure you have a system in place to capture that information and how you’re going to handle the response. So, it’s nice to have a contact form, it’s nice that is been used, make sure you have something in place to get back to the client as quickly as possible to finalize that sale. And next to also make sure that once a month, maybe every first of the month, you check every contact form on your website to make sure there are no server issues or website issues you’re unaware of. You want to take care of that as quickly as possible. And the last point of our “13 Don’ts and Do’s”, of the great contact form, is to have different forms, like we’ve discussed at the very beginning throughout your website. If you are retailer maybe you’ve got a different contact form when it comes to the shopping cart and there are contact form about technical support, for instance on shipping. So, again don’t just stick to one contact form if you are a big company, have several throughout your website, for different purpose.

RP: Alright. Perfect. Yeah. That’s and… That was great timing because our time is up. That is the show for today. A lot of great information in there about contact forms. One of things I will push back on people. One is going to be definitely the follow-up, ’cause of that user experience. And then number two, I think a lot of times people think that the contact form should just be on the contact page but if you have a two column website why can’t you have a little mini contact form, like you said, if you have technical question ’cause you have a technical product. You gotta think about it with your own clients and products but I think there’s an opportunity to include contact forms throughout the website in order to generate and increase and, “Hey, we really do want to talk to you.”

VD: Yes. All good.

RP: Alright. Perfect. Well, with that Virginie, that is the end of the show. As always, I appreciate the time and energy that you put into this. We will see you next Thursday same place, same time. Until then, I hope you have a great week and everybody out there thank you very much.

VD: Goodbye.


About the Author:

Ryan Perry is the founder and CEO of Simple Biz Support, Inc. Ryan started video blogging in 2009 as an alternative to written blogs to create visibility and credibility online. During the workweek, he enjoys helping small business owners harness the power of video to grow their companies. On the weekends, he enjoys hiking and searching out waterfalls throughout the state of California.

Leave A Comment