How Not to Make a Sign up Form

We’ve talked a lot in this space about making it as easy as possible for your subscribers to get on your list. Recently I came across an opt-in form that highlights just how frustrating signing up can be. And this site wasn’t even marketing anything!

We’ve talked a lot in this space about making it as easy as possible for your subscribers to get on your list.

Recently I came across an opt-in form that highlights just how frustrating signing up can be.

And this site wasn’t even marketing anything!

Here’s What Happened

I ordered a new cell phone online a couple of weeks ago.

I received email notification from the carrier that my order had been shipped, along with a tracking number (the email was OK, but could be improved – another topic, another post, another time) and a link where I could go to track my package.

So I head over to the tracking page, and in addition to my package information, it has a form where I can submit my email address to get status updates on the package. I’m excited to get my cell phone, so I immediately head for the form.

Here’s what I see:

Signup Form

Now, there are about 20 boxes here where I can/have to make a decision, if you count text boxes, dropdown menus and checkboxes. That’s 19 more than I need, give or take a box.

But I Figured, I’m a Smart Guy, I Can Do This

I enter my name and my email address in the first two boxes, as the form appears to indicate I should. And I submit the form. I even remember to mark the checkbox at the end of the form.


I got an error message telling me I hadn’t specified an email address. Which was news to me, since I put my email address in the box labeled “Your E-Mail Address:”

So I look at the form again, and I decide that maybe I’m supposed to put my email address in one of the text boxes on the left side of the form. So I do that instead, and I mark both checkboxes to the right of my address, and I submit the form again.

Strike Two!

Now, I get another error message telling me I didn’t specify my email address.

Let’s look at the form again:

Signup Form

Evidently, this form requires three steps:

  1. Put your email address
  2. Put your email address again, so you can get the updates
  3. Mark a checkbox – that is required – in order to agree to the shipper’s Terms and Conditions

What a Pain!

I did finally fill out the form successfully. However, this was for information that I desperately wanted – to know when my new cell phone would get to me. And I still almost gave up on it.

How many of your subscribers would put up with an opt-in form that they had to submit three times before they got it right?

I walked away from this with two specific criticisms of the form:

  • It asks for my email address twice, and the addresses are apparently unrelated – for the heck of it, I filled the form out later with two different addresses in those boxes, and the updates only came to the address I entered in the second box. What was the first email address box for?
  • It asks me to mark a checkbox to agree to Terms and Conditions, which I have to do in order to submit the form successfully. Why? It would be just as easy to state that “by submitting this form you agree…”

Overall, though, the form was Just. Too. Complicated.

The Moral Of Our Story

I can assure you I won’t be using this shipping company to send things. If they make something as simple as an email signup form that tough, I can only imagine what it must be like to do business with them as a whole.

Make it easy for people to get the information they want from you. Don’t make them jump through hoops.


  1. Graham Cox

    3/20/2007 9:20 am

    Hi Justin,

    It’s amazing how difficult some companies make it for their customers to do business with them. It’s one of my pet hates online, poorly executed sites that just make me think too much 🙂


  2. Florence

    3/20/2007 1:40 pm

    If I can add my two cents… or is it two sense? If you would like more information about your lead, make that optional for them. Trying to gather more information about your visitor/s so you can get a sense of whom to target in an email campaign is great, however it may also scare off your would be subscriber. It then is your choice-just have a name and email address or give them a few more forms to fill and have them leave you opt-in because they can’t be bothered. If you would like to find out the demograhics of your viewers you may request an address too. But put (optional) next to that text box. With Aweber’s split test options you can easily see which form works best for you-just the name and email address or added textboxes. Good Luck everyone.

  3. Ron Passfield

    3/20/2007 3:23 pm

    I agree entirely with your comments Justin. There have been many times that I have abandoned filling out a form because I thought the amount of information requested was unnecessary or the form was too complicated.

    I appreciate the opportunity provided by Aweber to test different forms.

  4. AnnaLaura Brown

    3/20/2007 4:21 pm

    yes I agree! The simpler the best.

  5. Rajeswer Naidu

    3/20/2007 6:11 pm

    I have come across many of such websites. I really can’t understand, how a webmaster could afford to do that.

  6. Dirk

    3/21/2007 2:33 am

    Dear Justin,
    yes, I totally agree and wonder how some companies act. Sometimes I guess that companies do not really know how to get things straight in the internet, then hire a web consultant company – as expensive as could be – and these guys often sell them things that are far too complicated. It

  7. Toni Parker

    3/21/2007 10:36 am

    How annoying!

    Guess it’s best to ask ourselves when designing our forms… Would I want to fill that out?

    Have an awesome day!


  8. Martin Haworth

    3/21/2007 2:06 pm

    With a background in customer service myself, I always made it a golden rule that anything we did or tried that required customer interaction we tried ourselves first.

    Beinf retail, the ‘stand on the other side of the counter’ was a vital component of anything we tried to change.

    Organizations too often fail to comprehend that customers are there to get the easiest, friendliest and quickest service, not to meet the exacting standards of a new internal process (at best) or ‘jobsworth’ self-serving employees at worst.

  9. Mike

    3/21/2007 8:49 pm

    That form looks like a FedEx or UPS page. They are not exactly trying to get leads and build a mailing list.. They are simply allowing you to get tracking updates. They will never use your email address again. They don’t care if you get subscribed or not. I really think that this is a very bad example. That company does not care if you subscribe or not. So this has nothing to do with what we are trying to do.

  10. piyush sexena

    3/22/2007 3:03 am

    same old story with almost 80% websites have?

    Can’t they check and take the suggustion from user by making

    a Ask me coloumn in their website for these type of difficulties

    Why do not there will be any type of inspectional forum, so that

    will inform the user about these type of problem?

  11. sally neill

    3/22/2007 6:09 am

    Yes I totally agree that form is terrible!

    Short and Sweet is the best way to go, the more simple the form is the more likely you will get the result you want from it.

    When I am completing forms, if I continually get error messages I end up giving up and closing the page down.

    Sally 🙂

  12. Carole McMichaels

    3/22/2007 3:21 pm

    Hi, Justin,
    SIMPLE! EASY! QUICK! In my view those should be our business mantrams! Not only do internet users yearn for expedience, they’re often overly busy, overly tired and overly distracted. The last thing we need is complicated redundancy.

    When I hit a site that tells me to do "x", followed by telling me I have not done what I just did, it goes into my Cyberhell, never to be visited again.

    Thanks for reminding us not to commit this yukkiness!

  13. Tricia

    3/26/2007 5:17 pm

    Kiss principle always – Keep It Simple!

  14. O'Neil Lewis

    3/26/2007 10:46 pm

    Many times we criticize the error of others simply because we have experienced the pain. It is good to talk about these things; at least we can be reminded of some of the simple mistakes that will cost us dearly in our endeavors. Thanks for your insights.

  15. Adeel Chowdhry

    3/27/2007 6:11 am

    That form was absolute madness!

    Who on Earth was paid to design that? I newbie on the internet would know the cons that kind of optin box would produce.

    It’s not even funny. I would click on the X straight away.

    Adeel Chowdhry

  16. Martin Haworth

    3/27/2007 9:25 am

    I suspect it was a back end techie with little understanding of front end needs. Or a boilerplate.


  17. John

    3/28/2007 3:50 pm

    The one universal thing people do on forms is to make the state on the address form a pull dowm menu. Those of us living in states towards the end of the alphabet always have to take our hands off the keyboard, mouse over to the menu, pull way down, and select the right state (maybe 80% of the time) and then go back to the keyboard. I’m certain I would get it right more often just typing it in, and a simple error check for a valid state shouldn’t be beyond the capability of a decent web programmer.

  18. Michelle

    3/29/2007 3:15 am

    Hi, I sat looking at that form…..
    Confusion set in.
    Then I thought how sad, they need help!

  19. paul

    3/30/2007 10:51 am

    I used this form last week too!!
    NIGHTMARE on Webstreet!!

  20. George Ruby

    3/31/2007 2:30 pm

    Very confusing form…it would be nice to see what you would have done to improve it as well.

  21. Mikel Johnson

    4/4/2007 6:25 pm

    The form is very confusing as there is not enough information provided for the customer.

    My guess is that this form is a remnant of some sort of corporate package where the top E-Mail field was intended for a corporate address while the E-Mail fields below were for additional notifications to specific addresses within the corporation (e.g.,

  22. Ron

    4/24/2007 8:37 pm

    All I have EVER asked my leads for is first name and email.

    If there is demographic info I need other than what the system provides, I will ask him later, after I have built more of a trust relationship with him.

  23. Maximize Signup Conversions by Asking for Less - Email Marketing Tips on the AWeber Blog

    5/23/2008 1:34 pm

    […] How Not to Make a Signup Form […]