Are your WordPress forms converting as well as they can be? Chances are they’re not. You can do better!
Your WordPress forms are the best digital communication link you have to your audience. They bring people into your sales funnel, onto your mailing lists, allow guests to register for events, purchase products and services, and a litany of other critical functions. Even the humble contact form is important.
Forms are a foundational part of your WordPress website.
And people walk away from them every day.
You may have noticed the discrepancy difference between people visiting a page and filling out your form. Dropping submissions counts may have caught your attention and you’re exploring how to turn those around. You may just be wondering why you don’t have more submissions in the first place.
It’s not just you. It’s a universal dilemma, and there is a solution.
In this definitive guide to WordPress forms conversion, we’ll dive into the specifics of what makes a high converting form work. We’ve a little bit of experience in this ourselves, and would love to share what we know with you! 😉
Make your form noticeable and ‘approachable’, or everything else you try will be a waste.
Understanding how users interact with your WordPress forms is the first step towards building forms that convert well. In this section we’ll explore the idea of Interaction Cost and shed some light on how a visitor tends to interact with your page on first contact. That moment of first contact is absolutely critical- it’s that brief handful of seconds where a visitor tends to decide on whether they’re going to stick around, or click on by.
Most people don’t read. Use that to get your form noticed!
Your readers probably don’t read. Sounds paradoxical, but it’s true. Only around 1 in 5 visitors actually read web pages line by line. Everyone else scans. Understanding how this works means you can take advantage of it.
Eye-tracking studies show that most viewers scan in an F-shaped pattern down the page. Keep this in mind when you’re building your form- and placing it on a page!
Two take-aways here:
- Place your form somewhere where it’s going to get noticed as a user scans the page
- Make the form itself easily scannable. Easy for short forms, harder for larger ones. For tips on making larger forms easier, check the next couple section!
If you’re not considering “Interaction Cost”, you’re losing submissions.
In simple terms, interaction cost is how much work a visitor has to put in to something to get it done. As a guest scans down a page and your form catches their eye, the decision to interact with it or not is affected by how much time they feel like they’re going to have to put into it.
That being the case, you want to keep interaction cost as low as possible. Here are the main factors that contribute to / raise cost:
- memory load (how much a user is being asked to remember)
Obviously you can’t completely eliminate all of these. You don’t want to. Just minimize them wherever possible. Keep field labels short and to the point, keep your form scannable and clean, etc. In short, being a minimalist maximizes WordPress forms conversion.
For forms that absolutely must be long and involved, try these two tips to vastly improve conversion.
- Break your form into parts/pages . Make the first part very short and simple, then present the other parts. Once a user has begun to invest in the form, they’re more likely to complete it.
- Allow users to save their progress so that when life inevitably interrupts them, they don’t have to start from scratch.
Whatever you do, DON’T do these two things.
Two very common mistakes we see frequently that raise interaction cost and drive away users:
- Putting field labels in weird places
- Overusing ghost/placeholder text
Why are these problematic?
Labels should almost always be placed above the field. It makes association between field and label effortless, and is a lot easier for the user to process. See for yourself in these two images:
Labels above the input fields:
Labels to the left of the input fields:
It’s clear that there is much less visual processing required of the user when labels are above the fields.
Ghost/placeholder text should also be avoided for the following two reasons:
- When a user scans your form, their eyes are drawn more to empty space than text. Help your user find the next field quickly by leaving fields blank that still need their attention.
- Ghost text disappears as soon as the user starts typing in the field. Whatever you’re trying to communicate with it has to be remembered by the user once it’s gone, raising interaction cost.
Complexity kills WordPress forms conversion.
Focus and simplicity are key to WordPress forms conversion. The smaller, cleaner, simpler, and faster your form appears to be, the better form conversion rate you’re going to have. There are a few different ways to nail this impression, even with longer forms!
How many fields are too many?
Three to five fields seems to be the “sweet spot” for successful WordPress forms conversion- not just from our own experience, but from industry research as well. With fewer than 3 your users may overlook the fields entirely, and with more than 5 fields conversion drops steadily field by field.
This doesn’t mean every form should be 3-5 fields, but it does establish a base-line rule of thumb. The fewer fields you can get away with, the better.
These fields specifically can kill your conversion rate.
The fields you use make a much bigger difference than you might expect!
Text area fields, selection boxes, and other similar fields require greater interaction than simpler fields. When users see these, it immediately ups the amount of time they perceive the form will take to complete.
- Conversion rates drop incrementally after 3 text box fields but remain reasonable up to around 8-12.
- Text area fields (those that are usually accompanied by a rich text editor for larger text submission) plummet after just 2. Conversion drops by 50% from just 2 to 3!
- Dropdown fields fare only slightly better, with a sharp decrease in conversion after the first and a steady decline thereafter.
So ask yourself: if this is information that has to be collected in this form, can it be collected in a cleaner way like replacing dropdowns with radio buttons or checkboxes? As importantly, how can a longer form be creatively presented to the user to avoid the intimidation factor of a mile-long form? We mentioned that answer above already, but we’ll hit it again just below!
How can a longer form still convert well? These 2 tricks can save your conversion rates.
Presentation matters! You want to avoid smacking your user in the face with a mile long form at first contact at all costs. Sometimes you simply cannot boil a form down to a small handful of fields. You can still get great WordPress forms conversion with longer forms though with these two tricks:
- Break your form down into multiple pages. Splitting your form into multiple pages of 3-5 fields per page avoids the intimidation factor of a long single page form. It’s much more palatable to make first contact with a 4 page form with 5 fields per page than a single page with 20 fields! In fact, multi-page forms have a 300% higher conversion percentage than long single page forms!
- Hide fields that are not directly relevant to all users. Using a form logic solution like Conditional Logic will allow you to set certain fields to be hidden by default, displaying only if and when a user needs them.
Who are you building your forms for? If you can’t answer that, you’re not going to convert.
Your form is a stage, and your users’ first glance of what’s on that stage is critical to whether or not they’re going to sit down and watch the performance or turn around and walk out the door. Literally 99 out of 100 people walk away from a contact form without giving it a second thought. That’s a terrible metric. What can you do to improve it?
If you are looking to build a successful form, from a 3 field contact form to a multi-page masterpiece, you need to know your audience in order to hook them into sitting down, and then you’ve got to keep them in their seats until the end. Here are 3 ways to do it.
Who are you building for? Get to know your audience!
We reach almost the whole world with the web, and your primary audience is somewhere in that mass of humanity. Connecting with people is so much easier when you know something about them already.
Tailoring content to the user is a tried and true strategy for major retailers that you can easily implement yourself. So, who are these people and where are they coming from!?
Google Analytics is an invaluable tool for understanding your audience and in turn boosting WordPress forms conversion. Know where in the world the majority of your audience visits from, what search or page led them to you, whether they’re a repeat or first time visitor, see just how many are connecting from mobile or desktop, what operating system and browser they use, and much more.
There are a ton of plugins on WordPress.org that will integrate Google Analytics with your WordPress website. Specifically for tracking forms and boosting WordPress forms conversion via Google Analytics, we strongly recommend IntelligenceWP.
Build for mobile devices or you’re hurting over half your audience.
There is no question that mobile platforms are now a major part of how your form is going to be viewed. The number of mobile users surpassed desktop users in 2014 and continues to grow at almost 2 billion mobile users and counting. Your form must be mobile friendly, so choosing a forms plugin that is fully optimized for mobile presentation is a must.
Here are some tips for good mobile form design:
- A form that presents as clean and crisp in a mobile format will look great on a desktop too, but not always the other way around.
- Field labels need to be at the top of the field, never to the left or right! Your users are working with limited horizontal screen space. Don’t make them scroll left to right in addition to up and down.
- Dropdowns are evil. Don’t be that guy or gal that makes your users scroll through 100+ fields of a Country dropdown on a mobile screen if you can possibly avoid it.
- Each additional field on a mobile is especially painful. Eliminate nonessentials.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself!
No one is going to be excited about filling out something that looks like a government issue paper form transcribed to the web. Also, because it really needs to be said: Your form is the absolute worst place on your site to use canned stock photos! Just don’t. It kills WordPress forms conversion.
There are a few simple things you can do that will go a long way towards giving your form some unique personality and help to build trust.
Use company branding.
This lets the user know they’re in the right place and with the right people and immediately removes any ambiguity for “Did I just click the right link?”, “Is this where I order Product X?” type questions.
Offer your contact information before they give you theirs.
You’re including branding, so back up your brand with contact info. This reassures the user that there is a real company/organization with a traceable street address, phone number, etc in case anything goes wrong or doesn’t work out the way they expected.
Put a face to the name.
Imagery that lets the user see the people behind the form will go a long way towards making the user feel comfortable. Put a picture of yourself or your team somewhere as a subtle reminder that we’re people too, not just a faceless organization.
Customize your form to your audience.
If you find that most of your users are from a particular region, consider incorporating art and imagery that will make them feel at home. If most of your users land on your form after searching for musical instruments, customize your form appropriately. Certainly be careful not to alienate anyone with your selections, but do go out of your way to make as many people feel at home on your page as possible to improve WordPress forms conversion.
People will be more inclined to give you info if you establish some level of trust.
You are, in the eyes of every first time user, an anonymous entity on the internet asking for some degree of personal information. That’s not a comfortable position to be in for many people, and it’s up to you to overcome that innate fear. Here’s how to do it and boost your WordPress forms conversion!
Changing your approach to forms can make a big difference
First off, how do you look at web forms? What’s their purpose?
You want information from your users: access to their inbox, payment info, whatever your goal is. The burden is on you as the form builder to assure them that their trust can be placed in you. Otherwise, you’re not going to convert a contact form… nevermind have them send you credit card information!
When you’re making a contact form, don’t try to go all in for as much user info as possible with your form. Instead look at it as a brief, respectful request for access and gather more information later as it’s needed.
Respectfully requesting access is the key element. It doesn’t matter if your form is convenient to fill out if I can’t rest assured that you’re not going to spam the daylights out of me if I give you my email address!
Be humble, be respectful, convey humility and respect in your web form by demonstrating that you are aware of concerns that your users may have and that you have already addressed them. We’ll detail some ways to do just that (and some techniques to stay away from) below!
These things make you look like a stalker. Don’t do them.
What’s in your form? Unnecessary fields don’t just lower WordPress forms conversion by lowering convenience. Certain fields can actually put your users’ guard up and turn them away from your form altogether.
What fields are those? Pretty much anything that asks for personal information that isn’t easily seen as directly relevant to the purpose of the form. Some things should never go on a form without reasons that are clear and compelling to the user:
- Phone number. This is by far the worst of the lot and the most commonly asked. No one wants phone spam from sales reps. Even including this as an optional field looks suspicious, and making it a required field is going to be a deal breaker for many.
- Home address
- Age/Date of Birth
- Any family or medical information
- Employment or financial information
There are many good reasons that you may ask for any of these. Just make sure that if it is necessary to ask that you are upfront and clear about the reasons, and if you don’t need it, don’t ask.
Do you need a privacy statement?
Reassurance in the body of the form that user data will remain private goes a long way to increase form conversion if you do it the right way. It can also harm you if you don’t. Done right, a privacy statement will boost conversion.
Wording is key! Essentially, you want to reassure the user that their information is private and will not be shared without invoking the specter of spam (I’d like some credit for that phrase if you’re going to steal it for a band name, please). Forms with a privacy statement that specifically mentioned spam lowered conversion almost 20% over 9 days compared to a control.
Conversely, the phrase “We guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared” boosted conversion almost 20% over 12 days compared to a control. The phrase “100% privacy. We keep all your personal information secret” had no statistically significant impact.
The purpose of a privacy notice, if you’re going to include one, is to reassure and comfort. Steer away from invoking negative imagery.
Do “trust elements” help or hurt?
Trust elements are text or images that you can append to your form to boost user confidence that your form is secure. A privacy statement is one of them, and like the privacy statement you have to be careful about how you use them.
Take care not to muddy the waters; remember that you want to keep your form as focused and simple as possible. If you choose to use any of these to increase WordPress forms conversion, use them conservatively and in a way that enhances rather than distracts.
Below are some common trust elements used to boost WordPress forms conversion.
Industry research indicates that these do increase form conversion on sales forms, but may actually lower conversion on other forms. 
Having positive feedback from satisfied customers in the vicinity of the form can help sway uncertain users. Reviews from well known and/or verifiable sources are best. An excerpt from a linkable blog post or someone tweeting about your product is better than a semi-anonymous webpage comment, and it coming from someone well known generally or in your users’ community is even better.
If your product or service has been adopted by clients that your target audience would be familiar with and have respect for, giving them some form of recognition on or around your form can bolster user trust.
If you have been featured in any form of media, you might consider including brief mentions of that coverage around your form to reassure users that you are an established business.Do trust elements and privacy statements help form conversion? Maybe!Click To Tweet
Build a form users WANT to submit. Be compelling.
Never just throw the form to the user and expect them to take it from there. Take advantage of your form builder’s rich text editor to make your form more that just fields to be filled in. Use supporting text to:
- catch their attention
- reinforce the reason they’re here
- reassure them that they’re in the right place
- call them to action
- offer incentive for getting involved.
What does this look like in practice? The following example text snippets could very easily be placed into an HTML field and styled:
Download [offer] Here!
Downloading [offer] now and get FREE access to our ezine with regular updates on all the best new equipment and tips from the pros! Don’t wait!
Register for [event] Here and Reserve your Seat Now!
Signing up now will ensure you have riverside seating and your name will be entered in our after dinner raffle!
Contact Us for Fast, Friendly Support!
We believe we offer the best product possible, and we stand behind that belief 100%. Expect to hear back from a representative within 24 hours!
Call the user to action and motivate them to take the time to fill out your form in a way that offers clear value in exchange for their time. Apply these factors in your own forms and you will see WordPress forms conversion improve!
Lose the Submit button. Seriously.
There’s a lot that could be said about people and commitment issues, and we’ll leave the majority of that to the psychologists. There are, however, elements of that bit of human nature involved n WordPress forms conversion, believe it or not. There’s a fair amount of research supporting differences in conversion rates being influenced by the language of the submit button, and words associated with commitment fare worse than more non-committal words.
For example, Click Here and GO both fare better than Submit and Register in A/B comparison testing. The same research shows that Download is also a poor choice, possibly because it invokes images of popups and malware.
Use the submit button as a call to action. If you’re offering a lead magnet like a free pdf, coupon code, etc incentivize here. “Get my 10% discount code” sounds a heck of a lot better than “Submit”, now doesn’t it?!
Follow these strategies and you will see your WordPress forms conversion grow.
Few things can be as irritating as trying to understand why people are not engaging with you. Your product or service might be perfect, your website might be gorgeous, and people still not reach out or interact.
It’s a big internet out there. There’s a whole lot competing for the attention of the people you’re trying to reach. They have things to do and people to see, and you’re just a tiny fraction of their day, most likely. Using the tips above, you can craft forms that will occupy that niche, fraction or no, in a meaningful way.
We’d love to hear your feedback on this guide in the comments below. Do you have different strategies that work well for you?