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!


  1. Ashish Chauhan

    9/12/2011 9:20 am

    Actaully its totally depends upon requirement. IF you are doing lead base business in which you only get paid if user has submitted whole contact details. If its our website then name and email address is enough information.

  2. Eric

    9/12/2011 10:16 am

    Is this just two people reading a blog post? Sounds kinda weird. I think there would be more value with two marketers using real data and info and talking about the different aspects.

  3. Rebekah Henson

    9/12/2011 12:40 pm

    Eric – You’ll find plenty of links in the podcast transcript to studies that support Nick and Crystal’s informative discussion.

    You might be interested in checking out our Case Studies category that use data from the campaigns of many of our customers. You can browse through those here:

  4. Gina

    9/12/2011 11:25 pm

    Actually this very topic came up with one of my clients today. She sent an email to her list that contained content that turned out to be a bit offensive to her few male listees. Had she used the male female distinction she would be able to exclude the male population when it was appropriate to do so

  5. Sean Breslin

    9/13/2011 10:07 am

    I tend to go with Nicks arguments, especially where he states subscribers are paying us with their time and information.

    The email form should be simple and reward them for their cooperation with our request for information from them!

  6. Lisa Stewart

    9/13/2011 11:27 am

    I had a similar discussion with one of your techs this week.

    I don’t know why the above discussion has to be an either/or. Why not have a ‘phase-in’ subscription that allows my customer to update her information so that she can be on the list that she wants to read?

    I know that by trial and error that customers only want to fill out one or two lines -I’m guessing they’re at work and they don’t want their boss to see what they’re doing. Getting their info shouldn’t stop there but could be continued at a later point.

    Because my business is expanding into lifestyle, I want to give my customers only what they want. I made the mistake of including blog broadcast in my delivery and lost a few because they thought, and I quote, “It would only be quarterly. I’m used to getting infrequent emails from artists.” Evidently, she thought I’d be the ‘typical artist’ who doesn’t keep in touch. Either way, we both lost. I know I lost big because she was from a big company and was in the process of vetting me for an opportunity.

    Now I have created a preference sign-up that I borrowed from a bookstore. You can see it below and unfortunately, it won’t help my current customers -and that’s a shame.

    So please, I beg you, reconsider the option to allow my customers to update their preferences so that I can get back to doing what I do best: creating and selling. Not tearing my hair out over yet another way I’m supposed to reach them without pissing them off.

  7. Tony

    9/13/2011 12:26 pm

    Asking for a name, mobile and email address would allow different kinds of contact. Some people may oblige while some won’t.

  8. Ed Rivis

    9/13/2011 3:52 pm

    What do you want to happen when leads fill out your web form?

    If you immediately follow them up with a phone call (as well as an auto responder email series) then you’re going to need to ask for their telephone number as well as their email address.

    If you also send direct mail then you’re going to need to ask for their postal address too. So that’s a bunch more fields.

    Also, how about asking for information about the newsletter preferences? And some information about what they are trying to achieve or the challenges they’re facing? And…

    WHOA… that’s a whole lot of form fields! 🙂

    However, if all you’re offering is a free ebook in return for the opt-in – then probably a significant percentage of your prospective clients and potential customers (who would otherwise fill in the form) instead ‘smell a rat’ and bounce off your site, leaving the form unfilled.

    So, how about just asking for the information you need to send them the free offer and add them to your ezine – their name and email address?

    Then on the post opt-in success/confirmation page, have a longer form that asks for the extended information.

    That way you’ll capture the majority of people who the offer is targeted at without risking the knee jerk reaction caused by presenting strangers with huge forms that ask for everything in one go — and the people who submit the extra data in the second form (on the confirmation page) are raising their arms and telling you they are the most interested and highly qualified prospects.

    That’s how I offer my paperback books – first as an ebook in return for name and email address, then on the next page have a long web form offering a free copy of the physical paperback in return for full postal details, and telephone number.

    My opt-in rates on my lead page offering a book about email marketing – the highest was 93% conversion rate – and the second page offering the paperback for

  9. Dr. Mary

    9/13/2011 6:33 pm

    I’m a research methodologist and what we know about asking signup questions is that less is more and informants tolerate name and e-mail because it implies they have control (delete the item). Asking people for a mobile implies losing some control, as in somebody will call them whether they want to hear from you or not!

  10. louis casasola

    9/13/2011 8:35 pm

    I do not like giving out too much informations, so I am for just name and email.

  11. Gidon

    9/14/2011 4:59 am

    see my site,, I have two sign ups, and people who sign up for the green one get one-three days of autoresponse teasers of what they are going to get if they sign up for the bigger one tomorrow.

    I [think I] give specific reasons why I need every bit of information.

  12. Stephen du Toit

    9/15/2011 6:58 am

    I have been scammed too often providing too much info.

    You require name and address…..ask
    what is your mothers name
    your favourite food
    your favourite hobby

    And that is that


  13. Jarom Adair

    9/15/2011 6:32 pm

    I’ve found that people start to shy away if you have more than 3 fields to fill in.

    Adding fields to your email signup form can actually be a strategy to increase the quality of your prospects. The more fields you ask them to fill in, the more motivated they have to be to fill out your form.

    On one site where I personally called everyone who left a number as they signed up for my email list, I was getting too many people to call. So I added 2 fields asking people more about their reason for being on my site and it cut down on the number of people I had to call (and gave me more information to work with on the people who did fill it out).

    Otherwise, I tend to recommend that people start with “name”, “email”, and “how did you hear about this site?” as the three most useful and non-intrusive fields to build a list with, and add fields as necessary.


  14. Crystal Gouldey

    9/16/2011 9:43 am

    Lisa- I will certainly pass your suggestion on. Allowing subscribers to easily update their preferences would definitely be beneficial to both subscribers and marketers.

    Ed- That’s a good idea. It would be interesting to combine that with Gidon’s idea to have the list with the shorter form send teaser messages about what they’re missing. Then you can link back to longer form in case they change their mind!

    Great stuff everyone!