Contact forms, request-a-quote forms, market research forms, newsletter subscription forms... yeah, so many kinds of forms out there. If only you had a silver bullet for easily crafting a form that perfectly converts.

But there isn't one. And, anyway, it's better to not chase after a unicorn flying over the rainbow. Chances are you won't find it.

The discussion around designing the perfect Web form has sometimes put many of us in a confusion loop. One time, you might want to increase the number of fields in your form, since you feel like asking a couple of additional questions. But will that scare respondents off and lower your form conversion rates? Another time, you might want to change that CTA (call-to-action) text because it sounds too dull for you. But then again, will that affect your form conversions?

This is where A/B testing becomes the superhero in your Web form tale: It can help you find the right formula for Web forms that convert at high rates [e-book; signup req'd].

Check out the following five form elements that you should be testing.

1. Optimize form length

How many fields should you include on your form? You want the name and the contact details. But knowing what your respondents do for a living wouldn't be bad, either. Nor would it be bad to ask them about their income level... But stop right here.

As much as you would like to ask a customer for all the info that you'd like to know, doing so might significantly reduce your form conversion chances.

It's common sense to understand that people don't excitedly jump into filling out forms with zillions of fields. Ideally, form length should be kept as low as possible: 5-10 fields are the ideal range, with best results for forms with 7 fields, Eloqua has found.

Reducing the number of fields for a newsletter subscription form from 13 to 3 drove an 816% growth in subscriptions, Marketing Experiments found.

A/B testing can help you get your own stats on form length. Use a control with the initial number of fields, and a test with fewer fields. Then see which performs better.

If you still want to get all that information you were initially looking for, you can try progressive profiling—building a respondent's profile during his or her multiple visits to your site.

2. Mind the colors

Have you ever seen an entirely red website? I mean that bright red that makes your eyes hurt... I hope you haven't. But if you ever ran across one, I'm quite sure you wanted to ditch it as soon as possible.

Colors are important for marketing and for business in general. They can carry various meanings and induce feelings. Red, for example, can tell you "stop" or "urgent," whereas green might suggest "go ahead." Green can also imply nature or environment, and red is often used for suggesting passion.

Look out for two things when using color with forms:

  1. Know what impact the color may have on the respondent.
  2. Align your form colors with your site branding. If your site is mainly blue and white, for example, it might be a good idea to keep that color palette for your form, too.

3. Tweak form copy

When somebody asks you to do something, you will probably listen and act if the request is convincing enough, generally speaking. That applies to the copy in your form. Starting with the headline all the way through to the CTA, tweak your form copy to answer that crucial question by your visitor: "Why should I fill out this form?"

Michael Aagaard from Content Verve conducted an experiment with the signup form for a betting company. The first approach used the classic copy "Join BettingExpert"; the test version focused on the benefit of joining. The outcome? The "minor" variation increased signups nearly 32%.

4. Improve user interaction elements

Unless a form is well conceived, users will tend to avoid it. But if the user interface makes interacting with it easy and seamless, people won't be put off.

If the form is interactive, for example, yet people don't feel it's complicated to click through fields as they dynamically change based on responses (conditional logic; see below), people are more apt to fill out the form.

Consider how you might make your form more responsive:

  • Implement field validation. Doing so reduces friction by telling respondents when the data they entered doesn't have the right format. An example is the mail address field.
  • Find the best label placement. Labels (text identifying what information you're asking for) placed inside the field are not a good idea. They might save space, but once respondents click, they no longer see what information they are supposed to enter. Top, left-aligned labels are usually the best way to go.
  • Provide instructions upon click. Choose this option if you prefer to display field instructions when people click on that particular field.
  • Set the cursor to jump to the next field. This tip comes in handy especially for phone numbers, when the cursor jumps to the next number box once the previous box is filled.
  • Use conditional logic. This is a great tip for improving the user experience. It can help you reduce the field number and make the form look more interactive. The form will display a certain question, or an additional option, on the basis of a previous answer by the respondent.

5. Show social proof, testimonials, and endorsements

When someone you trust or someone you find relevant recommends a product or a service, you are more likely to have a higher level of trust in that product or service. When a friend recommends a restaurant, you would likely consider going there.

If you were to see that companies such as Canon, Amazon, or LinkedIn, for example, use MarketingProfs for training, you'd probably feel much more comfortable signing up for MarketingProfs University courses or PRO membership. In addition, a testimonial displayed alongside the signup form would increase your trust level even more.

Anything from the names of major companies or brands using your product or service, to testimonials with informational value for your respondents, to the number of customers who have already signed up... can act as proof for why your respondent should complete your form.

Friendly advice: don't change too many form elements at once. Doing so will mess up your A/B-test, and you won't be able to interpret which configuration performed best. Change one thing at a time, decide on the best option, and then move on to the next element you want to test.

Start with the more important elements, such as CTA button copy, and continue with form tweaks such as label placement and using conditional logic.

Do some testing moves of your Web forms, then come back here to share your experience!

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image of Alexandra Recasan

Alexandra Recasan is a PR specialist at 123ContactForm.

LinkedIn: Alexandra Recasan

Twitter: @AleRecasan