Are Your Signup Forms Usable?

One of the things we like to stress around here when it comes to building a subscriber list is that “simple signup forms are good, and that you shouldn’t make signing up hard because then people… don’t sign up.

But sometimes it helps to hear what others outside the email marketing world have to say.

Our Director of Technology, Andy, passed me a blog post a while back that talks about usable registration forms.

The name of the post — “User Registration Pages Suck.” — might sound harsh, but it’s a helpful view into what your visitors may be thinking when they’re asked to sign up for something.

Lesson #1: What’s In It For The Subscriber?

If you’re going to require the subscriber to fill out a signup form, it had better be for something valuable.

In the first example on Codeulate, a signup form was required to signal approval of an article with a “thumbs-up.” Who’s going to be willing to fill out a signup form just to vote on an article?

Asking someone to sign up to your list is just like asking them to complete a business transaction — you want their time, attention and privacy (because once they provide their email address, they’re no longer anonymous to you).

Make sure what you have to offer in exchange for that is more valuable to them than those things, or they won’t sign up.

Lesson #2: Make It Easy To Sign Up

Q: What’s the goal of an email signup form?

A: To get opt-in email subscribers.

Q: Why?

Q: So I can send them email messages.

Q: What do you NEED to know about them to do that?

A: Their email address. Maybe a name so I can address them personally.

Seems simple enough, yes?

So why are so many signup forms a mile and a half long? Do we really need to know company name, position title, budget, etc?

I’m all for targeting and segmentation, but they serve a purpose: to reach the right people with the right message at the right time.

It’s a registration form for a website. Not a medical history form. Not a mortgage application. Not a tax return.

If you’re asking someone for all this information up front, before they even know you, let alone trust you, many otherwise good prospects aren’t going to sign up, and then it won’t matter how narrowly you segment and target your subscribers, because you won’t have subscribers to reach.

This is why forms like the first one Codeulate points out bug me so much.

It’s a registration form for a website. Not a medical history form. Not a mortgage application. Not a tax return.

Why would you want to mimic those things with a form that, when you get down to it, is there to help you build a community around your website?

Take A Look at Their Recommendations

I don’t agree with everything the author says, particularly about delaying the signup as long as possible.

As we discuss in our webinars and elsewhere, using a signup form and an email campaign to build a relationship with visitors and get them back to your site is essential to your success.

That said, there are some good lessons here. Have a look, especially at the five suggestions at the end of the post.