Are your enquiry forms still rubbish?

You may well have made a serious effort over the years ensuring that the contact or enquiry forms on your website have been stripped down to the minimum required information – or at least I hope you have. There’s no hope if the message hasn’t got through by now that having a dozen or more fields to complete just to enable someone to sell you something isn’t going to appeal to any prospect. But even a short form can be frustrating if it doesn’t work well. So my question to you today is: have you tried to actively fill in your own website’s forms badly? Website forms can be tested to destruction at a cost of precisely zero, so there’s no excuse for not doing it.

Here are some of the things to look out for. Firstly, what happens if you miss out a field, either deliberately or accidentally? What error message do you get? Is it clear? Can the situation be rectified easily or is the whole form wiped out? Many people will have had the experience of writing a long message inside a contact form, only to find that when they press ‘submit’, they’d missed some other data entry field out and they were asked to complete everything again, with the message lost forever.

What happens on your website’s forms when critical information is omitted? Have you tried it?

Secondly, what is the conversational language of your form like? While a marketing manager may have written the instructions and labels which display on a contact form page, I’d bet that most ‘error messages’ are written by computer programmers, who may not have quite the same social skills. That’s the only explanation I can give for the many times I’ve been told by a website that I’ve just “entered an unvalidated substring” or some other nonsense, implying that I’m some sort of a technological imbecile. So try putting some clearly incorrect data in your website’s forms and see what happens. If the resulting response isn’t clear and polite, get it rewritten.