The Psychology Behind Successful Online Forms

Online forms

Online forms are infinitely better than paper forms, but they can be poorly designed and frustrating too.

People accept online forms as a fact of modern life, and for the most part they’re happy to oblige by completing them. It certainly beats filling out forms by hand or phoning in an order somewhere and having to spell-check and re-check data to ensure it is correct. But just because a form has been put online doesn’t mean it’s a good form. Poorly designed forms lead to bad data, and to people simply choosing not to bother completing them.

If you take time to ensure both the practical and the psychological appeal of your online forms, you can expect greater user satisfaction, higher completion rates, and higher quality data. Here are some common problems, plus how to make your forms not only practical but psychologically appealing as well.

Confusing Designs Lead to Erroneous Data

Poor ballot design was implicated in the infamous confusion surrounding vote tallies in Florida during the year 2000 presidential election. The so-called “butterfly” ballot was confusing enough that it is believed that many people inadvertently voted for someone different from who they believed they were voting for. Confusing online form design can cause mix-ups too, causing people to order the wrong things, answer surveys inaccurately, or otherwise think they’re doing one thing while actually doing another. To avoid such problems, online forms need to be designed so that it is always clear which answer fields go with which question fields.

Make It Worth Their While

If you have automated workflows to take the data from forms that customers (or potential customers) fill out, it can be tempting to make online forms long and detailed. After all, automated workflows can take care of it with no extra effort on your part. But studies of online forms and landing pages have consistently shown that people are turned off by forms that require more effort and time for them than is worth it for whatever they get in return. In other words, if you require a potential customer’s life and career history before giving them access to a two-page report, don’t be surprised if you don’t get many takers.

Mobile-Friendliness Is Mandatory 

Online forms

People access the web using mobile devices more often than with a desktop or laptop computer.

When everyone accessed the web in a desktop environment, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect people to type answers into blank online form fields. But by late 2016, more people were accessing the internet using mobile devices than a traditional desktop or laptop computer. The forms that work fine when a user has a real keyboard can be tremendously frustrating without one. Making your online forms mobile friendly requires that they fit mobile screens correctly and that you minimize the amount of straight-up typing you expect from people. Drop-down menus and multiple-choice questions with clickable “radio buttons” are your friends here.

Practicality Often Defined in a Psychological Context

Practicality doesn’t seem like it would have any emotions attached to it, but in fact, it does. Sure, people want to order that product from you or are happy to sign up for your email newsletter to access that white paper, but there’s a limit to how much form-filling they’ll put up with before going elsewhere. A detailed form may only take a minute longer than a brief, elegant one, but that minute can make a difference to a user who is pressed for time, or who is on the fence about whether the payoff of completing the form is worth it.

Designing online forms must be done with forethought and strategy, particularly for customer-facing forms. Naturally, you want as much information as possible about people interested in your products and services, but there is a limit as to how much time and information people will give up, even for something they want.

PerfectForms is an online form builder and workflow management software that makes it easy to design aesthetically pleasing forms and automated workflows that make it easy on users (including mobile users) while helping ensure accurate, complete, high-quality data. We invite you to look at some of our many case studies and see how PerfectForms streamlines online forms and automated workflows, helping businesses run more smoothly while showing customers that you are taking every step to avoid wasting their time.


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