Should Your Sign Up Form Ask For More Than Name and Email?

Your web form needs to convince visitors to your website to sign up to your mailing list. Should you take the opportunity to get to know them more by asking them more questions, or will having a lot of fields to fill out just scare subscribers away?

It’s a hard question, and the answer usually depends on who you’re talking to. Sometimes, even your own co-workers have different opinions.

I can see the advantages of asking for more information, while my co-worker Nick tends to focus on the disadvantages. There was only one way to settle this: bring our debate to the blog!

The Debate: Ask For More Information vs. Only Ask For the Basics


Crystal: I think while it’s good to keep a sign up form simple, it’s also good to ask subscribers for more than just name and email

Nick: Why? Why would you do that?

Crystal: Because you can learn more about your subscribers that way.

Nick: Right, but what’s your end goal?

Crystal: You want to give them more personalized, relevant emails which can increase engagement and retention. The way to do that is to learn more about them by asking for more information at sign up.

Nick: The problem that I have is this: you want to get people on your mailing list because presumably you’ve got a lot of information about your product or industry that you can send them, right? So asking them for a lot of personalized information will mean you have to be using that information in an interesting way that actually adds value, otherwise you’re just wasting their time.

Crystal: Ok, it doesn’t have to be “a lot of personalized information.” You can learn from their basic demographics, or have a drop down of interests they can select from. You can then use that information to segment your list, or you can set up a list selection field on your web form to put them in the appropriate lists.

Nick: Well, give me an example.

Crystal: Men and women can be interested in the same company for different reasons. Think of Target stores.

Nick: Men don’t shop at Target. No man goes to Target of his own free will.

Crystal: Fine, how about a sporting goods store? There would be different products and styles for men and women.

Nick: That’s true, but at the same time is it worth making them fill out a longer form and potentially having people not sign up? Couldn’t you just make your email campaign fit for both?

Crystal: It’s just asking for male or female.

Nick: Right, and maybe if that’s as far as you go it might be worthwhile, but every question you add you’re increasing the chance that someone is going to be intimidated by the size and just go away.

Crystal: Going back to the sporting goods store example, you can also find out if they do cold weather sports vs. warm weather, and be able to segment them based on that information. That would be a lot better than sending someone in Florida information about snowboarding.

Nick: Sure, but at the same time you have to be careful. You have to make sure that you’re really getting a lot of value out of those extra fields not only for yourself, but also for your subscribers.

Crystal: Yeah, of course there is value for the subscribers. Who likes receiving emails for things they aren’t interested in?

You like computer games a lot, but does that mean you want to get information about all computer games? Even the Barbie games?

Nick: True, but I still wouldn’t fill out a 20 question form.

Crystal: That’s your personal opinion. ChoiceStream did a survey and found that over 80% of people would rather give more information in exchange for personalized content.

Nick: There’s a problem with that though. You have to realize that the people that take the time to fill out surveys probably are more likely to take out time to fill out a form. How many people didn’t fill out that survey?

Crystal: That’s fair. But there are also plenty of studies that show how more personalized emails perform better.

Nick: Of course, but what are you losing by forcing people to fill out a longer form? If you end up with a much smaller list, even if you get a better response rate, that smaller list might not be worth as much.

Crystal: It doesn’t have to be forced; you can designate which fields are required in the web form, making only the basics required and the rest optional. Then just clearly explain that if they fill out the other fields they will be getting more personalized content.

Nick: That’s an option. It still assumes people won’t just balk at the sheer number of questions.

We tend to think of our mailing lists as something we give to our subscribers for free, but that’s kind of a flawed assumption. Subscribers are paying us with their time and information. We don’t want to take advantage of that or ignore it. They shouldn’t have to look at your form and make a bunch of decisions; they should be able to fill it out as quickly as possible.

Crystal: I agree with what you’re saying, but I feel like while that might give you more subscribers, is it really about the number? The people that really want to give more information and get more personalized content will be more engaged and valuable subscribers in the end.

Nick: Could be.

Crystal: The best solution here is really just to split test your web forms. Create two different forms and find out what works best for your audience. To find what works best, you’ll need to look at the difference in the number of subscribers coming in and how people are responding to your messages.

Nick: Certainly, any time you’re interacting with something where it is a balancing act, you have to see where the median point is. You want more engaged subscribers but you want to make sure you have enough of them that it matters. Split testing is the only way to find out where that balance is.

Verdict: Set Up a Split Test!

It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on (unless you’re on mine, then you made the right choice!), the only way you’re going to know what brings you the best results is to split test.

Let us know what works best!