3 Steps to Better Form Conversion: Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor is the idea that the simplest solution is often the best one unless there’s a really good reason to do otherwise. It’s been applied in the tech world with great success; Steve jobs echoed a similar mentality in an interview with Business Week, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”[1] What’s any of this to do to do with better form conversion?

Focus and simplicity are key to any high conversion form. The smaller, cleaner, simpler, and faster your form appears to be, the better form conversion rate you’re going to have. Stick with us for a few minutes here and we’ll not only back that statement up, but look at 3 easy steps you can take to achieve better form conversion in the process. Check it out!

Fewer Fields = Better Form Conversion

Three to five fields seems to be the “sweet spot” for successful conversion, according to research conducted on 40,000 different forms by Dan Zarrella of hubspot.com.[2] With fewer than 3 your users may overlook the fields entirely, and with more than 5 fields conversion drops steadily field by field.

better form conversion: conversion rate by number of fields


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. You shouldn’t stick to that number blindly, though. The idea behind the data is what’s important: the fewer fields you can get away with using, the less investment is required by the user, the better form conversion rate you’re going to have. Period.

For example: taking a survey? Pre-registering people for an event or gathering? Selling a product? You may not be able to run with just 3-5 fields. Building a contact form? You probably want less. A 1- 2 field newsletter signup that really pops on the page can work beautifully for you.

While we’re at it, don’t look at a contact form as your one shot to get information on the visitor, but rather as a brief, respectful request for access. If you’re looking for leads, looking to reach out to people, then trim back your form to the bare minimum and use it as a means to establish first contact. The quicker and more convenient your form is, the less time it takes out of your users’ busy day, the higher your conversion rate is going to be.

All Fields are Not Created Equal

This has more relevance to better form conversion than you might expect. Too many text area fields, too many selection boxes, too many fields where your user has to interact for prolonged periods, even if those periods only span a few seconds each, adds far more time in your user’s perception of form length than you might think.

Citing the hubspot.com research again, conversion rates drop incrementally after 3 textbox fields but remain reasonable up to around 8-12. Text area fields however (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.

better form conversion: conversion rate by text area fields


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? Read on!

Better Form Conversion through Better First Impressions

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. All is not lost!

  • 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, research indicates that multi-page forms have a 300% higher conversion percentage than long single page forms![3]
  • Hide fields that are not directly relevant to all users. Using a form logic solution like Ninja Forms’ Conditional Logic will allow you to set certain fields to be hidden by default, displaying only if and when a user needs them.


Less is certainly more in the world of form conversion. Create your forms with a minimalist attitude that focuses with precision on the purpose of the form. Display your respect for the user’s time through your form’s simplicity. In short, craft the kind of form you want to encounter when you’re on the fly, racing off to the next thing that life leads you to. With the right mindset, better form conversion is inevitable!

  1. http://www.businessweek.com/1998/21/b3579165.htm
  2. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6746/Which-Types-of-Form-Fields-Lower-Landing-Page-Conversions.aspx
  3. http://www.marketingcharts.com/online/form-conversion-rates-whats-working-52448/