Are Your Signup Forms Usable?

By Justin Premick

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.

Do You Make These Mistakes In Your Email Footer?

By Justin Premick

It’s been a while since we’ve picked apart an email campaign.

I’m not really a fan of being negative, but a great example of what not to do came across my desk the other day, and I can’t help but share it with you.

Please don’t make the same mistakes with your email footer that these guys did.

The Offending Email

Ethan, one of our web developers here at AWeber, was puzzled at an email he recently received from a ticket sales website. He had absolutely no idea who this company was. He couldn’t remember ever doing business with them.

He eventually figured out (after going to their site and trying a login/password combination he rarely used) that he had purchased tickets to an event through them — over a year ago.

As we often remind people looking to collect subscribers offline, permission isn’t indefinite – it expires, and if you email subscribers out of the blue after a long time, they lodge spam complaints because they don’t remember you.

That’s not what caught my attention about this email, though. What I found especially appalling was their email footer:

Poor Email Footer - Click to See Full Size
(Click image above to magnify)

Three things about it made my slap my forehead:

1. Vague Opt-In Reminder

Remember: this company hasn’t emailed Ethan at all since he made his purchase a year ago. So they should have known he wouldn’t expect an email from them.

While they did at least attempt to put a permission reminder in this footer, they failed to actually remind him of anything.

Their reminder text:

Our mailing list records indicate that your email address is opted-in to receive this email.

Great. Very helpful. “Oh, they say I’m opted-in. Well, I must be.” Right?

When you create a permission reminder, especially if you don’t email often, make sure you tell people:

Where and/or how they signed up
When they signed up

You could also put the subscriber’s email address in the footer (as this company did), although I would say that’s less important than where, how and when they signed up (after all, they already know what email address you’re emailing them at, right?).

A much better permission reminder:

This email was sent to (email address) because on (date), (first name) signed up for ticket alerts at (website URL).

Now, at least the subscriber can check out the web page where s/he signed up and hopefully recall signing up there a few months (a year?) ago.

Want to create a permission reminder like that in AWeber?

See what you can personalize your emails with.

2. No Replies Allowed

Nothing says “you’re just a number to us, buddy” than an email campaign that tells you not to bother replying.

No Replies Allowed

Yes, there’s a link to their Help Desk in the footer. But what about people who don’t read down to the footer?

Is it really so hard to send from an address whose inbox forwards directly to the Help Desk?

One of the advantages of email marketing over other mediums is that it lends itself to having a two-way conversation with your customers and prospects — why would you shut out subscriber interaction and feedback like that?

3. Difficult To Unsubscribe

To top it all off, in this example unsubscribing is a real challenge.

The company forces you to login to your account with them to unsubscribe:

No Replies Allowed

People who want to stop receiving email from you are going to do it, one way or another. If you make it hard on them, if you put hurdles in the way of them opting out, they’ll simply mark your messages as spam.

Not only does the company in this example lose a chance to learn why people unsubscribe from their list, they put themselves at risk of blocking and filtering due to complaints.

Lessons Learned

Remind people why they’re getting your email. Be specific.
Be available. Avoid using “noreply” or unmonitored addresses in your “from” line.
Make it easy to unsubscribe.

What Do You Think Should Go In An Email Footer?

Do you do these things in your email footer? Can you think of other items that should go there?

Share your ideas below!