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.

Justin Premick is the former Director of Educational Products at AWeber.

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  1. Great blog!
    This is exactly why I only ask for name and email on my site.
    My phone number is on the site if they want to contace me personally also. Then people wonder why their list isn’t growing. People are very hesitant to leave a phone number this days. Keep it simple with name and email.

    4/4/2008 1:18 pm
  2. Great article, I agree.

    Keep it simple!

    We all know how annoying it is when we have to fill in long signup forms so why treat our visitors any differently.

    I’ve often pulled out of purchases simply because the sales process was so long and tedious.

    I’ve often asked myself, why if I am signing up for a free report do they need my telephone number or physical address?

    The short answer is, they don’t.

    So I’m not going to give it to them.

    It’s simple…

    If you want to get a prospects email address then offer them a free report or email course.

    If you want to get a prospects physical address then offer them a free cd or dvd shipped to their home.

    If you want to get a prospects phone number then offer them a tele-seminar or similar.

    This way your prospects have a valid reason for giving you the information and are more likely to do so.

    Just a thought…

    4/5/2008 12:09 am
  3. Ethel

    I have a domain name, but no website as yet.

    Due to my privacy, I only want to give my first name and email address to anyone at first until I nave built a little trust in them. I can just delete the email if I do not trust them or unsubscibe with any email that I wish not to get anymore, so I just wanted to add this as another consumer not a webmaster or internet marketer as yet.

    Thanks for asking

    4/5/2008 9:10 am
  4. Very good post! I think more people need to read this, so that they know how to truly create a usable sign up form.

    I know on my blog, I use a simple form for people to get a free ebook. It’s simple, and gives them what they want right after.

    You have to make it easy, useful and beneficial for your prospect or else, you’re not going to get the signup.

    Keep up the good posts!

    4/5/2008 6:45 pm
  5. Once in the dim past, I purchased a book from TechRepublic (codulate’s example of a poorly designed form) which appeared to have been authored by the same team that produced the form.

    It just now makes sense.

    Thank you for such a clear and simple presentation of the problem.

    Keep up the excellent work!

    4/6/2008 12:00 am
  6. Excellent post, I totally agree!

    If people will start by giving you their name and email then maybe later you can offer something to mail to them to get more info like address.

    And simplicity is right on target.

    4/6/2008 5:11 pm
  7. I can’t believe how many clients we have that spend a fortune on PPC ads with the goal of getting opt-ins yet they don’t optimize their site to achieve that goal…

    Landing pages should be very carefully tailored (and tested) to maximize the opt-in rate. There should be no other option from the page. It needs to follow the simplest rule in direct marketing:

    For every communication with them you want them to do one action. By having your site be confusing in design and not promoting your opt-in box correctly and just saying "subscribe here" things will never work out.

    The best method is to just have an entire page designed for the opt-in process so that you can educate them better as to the reasons that they are signing up and motivate them to do so.

    4/7/2008 7:32 am
  8. This is an interesting topic. I visited the referenced article and what I found was a real lack of numbers. I personally have no preference as to the marketing methods that I use. My preferences are determined by the results that I see, and I quickly discard methods that fail. I’d like to see numbers of long versus short forms for sign up and the rate of complaints and drops off those lists. Let’s not forget that the purpose of a list is to ultimately to generate revenue. I could care less if I have big list that no one buys from. I did that in direct mail when I was first starting and quickly found the value of segmentation.

    A long form also allows for market research, where they have proven very valuable for me.

    If anyone has numbers in these categories, I would enjoy seeing them!


    4/7/2008 12:47 pm
  9. Thanks for letting me know nice tips!

    I like them!

    4/7/2008 10:45 pm
  10. I have left all my personal details on my site. That creates trust. And they sign up.

    4/8/2008 2:08 pm
  11. I get so much from your posts and look forward to every email update that hits my in-box. You deliver high quality information that helps me tweak my website and for that I am grateful.

    4/9/2008 8:08 am
  12. I fully agree, got auto-responder then use it but name & email first… then once a solid relationship is built… THEN get more details… AND… only IF you really do NEED them!

    4/11/2008 2:15 pm
  13. I recently tested the "uber minimum" – just asking for the email. I got worse optin conversion with just email than email+name.

    I guess people find it weird when they decide to signup, that they *can’t* give their name.

    Always be testing :)


    4/16/2008 4:58 pm
  14. Jo

    I am a newbie and this information is a great help. Thanks

    4/20/2008 12:59 am
  15. It seems quite obvious when you think about it. Besides putting people off, complex forms where you aren’t 100% happy about giving your data just result in lies. Garbage data collection isn’t much use.

    4/20/2008 9:58 am
  16. I came across an article,the title was "Putting an Optin Box on Your Blog.People were jumping up and down excitedly about this.I have an Aweber account,the idea of having this plugin facility has got me all excited as well because it sounds like a really great way of getting almost instant traffic.Have I been living in a cave for most of my life,does everyone seem to have an instruction manual besides me?

    4/28/2008 7:44 am
  17. Ela

    Thanks for this post, lots of great ideas and useful tips! From my personal experience, when I sign-up for a newsletter or to download a free report, I get suspicious if there are too many personal details required. And I simply quit without leaving any personal info.

    When company wants to get more details than my email address and name, they have to explain clearly why they need so much information about me.

    However, when I have good relationship with a company (lets say I have subscribed to their newsletter and I find it very useful and relevant to my business) I don’t mind providing them with more information on my business, my personal details etc.

    4/30/2008 6:56 am
  18. I agree with Ela, I become suspicious when requested to give to much personal information. When I’ve gotten to know the source and I’m interested in the material, then I’ll subscribe.

    I did have a popup on my website but had it deleted because it had a character( photo of a guy with his hands waving) plus the email and name. I thought this a bit to much.

    I do think the popup is a good idea and would like to learn how to install it.

    5/26/2008 10:13 pm
  19. Hi

    This blog sure helps in a LOT of ways…

    One particular thing though I’m looking for is how to make some changes to the Aweber sign up form… for example, how to make the button the user clicks on a red color, or with a red border…

    This is still keeping the form simple, just adding a few ‘extras’ to encourage the sign up.

    Particularly if you look at the actual Aweber sign up form on this page (top right) you’ll notice it’s got some great colors in it, but it’s still simple. Ie. The button is green and there’s a little widget type image. How do I do that (make a green button) with my own Aweber form? :)

    I’ll keep looking – maybe the answer is on this blog somewhere.

    Thanks for all the great info…

    7/26/2008 2:57 am
  20. Martin,

    This is something you can do with your web page editing software (i.e. Dreamweaver, FrontPage, etc) using HTML/CSS.

    An article in our Knowledge Base that may help:

    How To Use an Image For Your Submit Button

    7/26/2008 9:03 pm | Follow me on Twitter
  21. Hey Martin this is what you need:

    You can see it used on my own site at

    Hope that helps.

    7/26/2008 10:10 pm
  22. Opt-in boxes are great, keeping it simple is great. The biggest problem I have is the double optin. Please write on how to over come folks not understanding it, or thinking they just got a confirmation and don’t need to respond.

    3/17/2009 8:17 am
  23. Will


    The easiest way to overcome this is to make it appear that they need to confirm their email address in order to get your freebie.

    So when a user submits their name/email, take them to a page that says thankyou, your download link has been sent to you by email, or please check your email for your login details or whatever. Just something that will make them HAVE to check their email – then they’ll open that email and see they need to confirm.

    Another great way to do this is to just make a really short video, have it on the thankyou page, and show them exactly what they need to do. Show them the email and which link they need to click on, etc, etc.

    Good luck!

    3/17/2009 8:49 am
  24. I was running the website for the last 2 years. somehow, I didn’t bother to add a subscription form on my site. However, recently I have added the form and the response was tremendous. I wish I could have done it long time back. By the way, I ask only the email address of the users.

    12/29/2009 3:03 pm
  25. Great collection of info about web form sign ups. I agree…ask for as little as possible. Asking for someones email is almost like asking for the keys to their house so you can come visit once a week. If they give it, you can’t abuse it.

    1/29/2011 3:46 am
  26. I ask for name, phone, email, and a text box. I don’t require any of them to be filled out, so people can drop anonymous comments or submit information for contact.

    2/12/2014 1:57 pm