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How to Design a Sign-Up Form That Works

blur Content | January 3, 2014 | Design

A sign-up form is fantastic tool for businesses, capturing data and keeping customers in the marketing funnel, but what’s the best way of getting results?

Conversions aren’t just about sales. Sometimes, conversions mean sign-ups.

We might add a user to a mailing list of some sort, or ask them to sign up to create an account on our store.

That normally means convincing them to use a form on the website.

Unfortunately users really hate signing up for things: privacy concerns make people nervous, people also hate the idea that they might be spammed, and forms often look daunting to the casual visitor.

So we’re agreed: sign-up forms hinder engagement. How do you get around this?

Understanding Why We Hate to Sign Up

Present a user with a huge sign-up form and they’ll almost certainly retreat. In fact, unless you’re selling something very desirable, very unique, and/or very cheap, you’ve probably lost them forever.

Some e-commerce packages are built on cumbersome, awkward, lengthy forms, and conversion rates often suffer as a result.

According to feedback from marketers, even the existence of the Verified by Visa system deters people from making a purchase.

Rumour has it that Amazon refuses to adopt it because it’s yet another form to negotiate before the conversion takes place.

Often, complicated forms are difficult to navigate on a mobile device, too.

Stripe's Sign-up Form

Stripe’s Sign-up Form

Making Forms Friendlier

Overcoming the challenge of the sign-up form means understanding people’s hesitations and working to solve these problems proactively.

  • We can remove fields to shorten the form. Stripe’s sign-up form is no longer than a login form; the rest of the information is taken later.
  • We can make the form fields bigger. Pushing fields below the fold makes the form less daunting. Buffalo uses this idea to capture a large amount of information.
  • We can play with focus to cut down on visual clutter. Typeform is built on the idea that only one field should be visible at once.
  • We can assure people we won’t misuse their information. Tell them exactly what they will receive before they fill it in.
  • We can alter the design of the page. People expect sign-up boxes to be white. Give them what they expect; don’t make things difficult to find.
  • We can use a call to action. The sign-up button on the form should make the benefit clear. Basecamp does this well.

The Benefits

Increasing conversions is all about removing obstacles and making engagement easy and fast. If you want to encourage someone to do something, it makes sense to remove every barrier. But you need to do this without compromising trust.

There are so many examples of shorter forms yielding better results, but it’s not always totally clean-cut. Here are just a few examples.

  • Changing the word Submit to something else increases conversions by three per cent, according to this Unbounce infographic.
  • Norwegian ecommerce store Blivakker increased registrations by 11 per cent by making a fairly modest cut to the number of fields on their form: from 17 down to 14.

In the last example, note the contradiction. The super-short version of the form was not as successful as the version with 14 fields. This suggests that there are some circumstances where longer forms do convert; the only way to know what will happen is to test, test, test.

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