The simple "contact us" form is the unsung hero of a website, it often gets ignored, pushed to the side, slapped together in an effort to spend more time on flashy promo panels or fancy navigation effects, but the "Contact Us" form deserves much more attention!
Of course, I'm not just talking about "Contact" forms, I'm talking about forms in general, from a hotel's reservation form to a newsletter signup form, forms can be a very powerful and easy to to gather customer and user data from a website. However in most cases these forms don't get much thought, they are often too lengthy, poorly designed, bland, dull, BORING.
If you want your users to fill out a form, its got to have some FUEL to it and this is where great form design comes into play. Below are just some ways to help gather more accurate data, open up the communication between you and your users and also help instill confidence in your site and product.
1.) Length. Sure it would be great to be able to put up a 20 field form with multiple pages so you can gather as much data as you can to help target your marketing efforts…but a long form more often than not drives away users. Think to yourself, "Would I fill all this out at home on a saturday". Keep the form short, simple and to the point, identify the most valuable aspects that you want to capture, Name, email address, Phone, and so forth.
2.) Text. Be personal with your form, instead of having default text that says "Email Address" try something friendlier, more inviting, like "Let us know your email address so we can get in touch" A user has to have some sort of incentive to sit there and fill out a form, being more personal helps that process, it takes a "Threatning" form that contains their personal information and transforms the process into something much friendlier, more inviting.
3.) Design. Default fields, default text, column 1, column 2. Most forms are boring visually and as mentioned above from a readability standpoint as well. If you want to increase the amount of data you are collecting from forms, design will play a key role. Make sure that the form matches the look and feel of the site, use similar fonts, similar colors, provide contrast between the elements. Most importantly of all make it not look like a form that the user fills out at the DMV or on their taxes, its important that the form is inviting and something the user will look at and feel that there is some value to filling out these fields.
One last note about forms, forms aren't just for collecting information from your users, they also have the power to instill confidence in your product or service. If you're "Contact Us" form looks thrown together, the user may not feel confident that filling out this form will result in answers to their questions.
In a worst case scenario, if you are running an online store and collect credit card information and your forms are just thrown together, don't match or resemble filling out your taxes, your potential customers are not going to feel confident in sharing their personal information with your company resulting in them shopping, booking their vacation or planning a golf trip elsewhere.