Hackernoon logoThe Anatomy of a Form and 5 Ways to Optimize It by@syedbalkhi

The Anatomy of a Form and 5 Ways to Optimize It

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site. He explains the anatomy of a form, i.e., the key parts of a good form. Understanding this will help you create forms that convert and make them user-friendly and attractive. The golden rule for making well-spaced forms is to keep them as short as possible. When creating a newsletter form, stick with different messages to show different success messages to users after they submit their forms.
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Syed Balkhi

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site.

Forms are so widely used online that we often forget just how much we use them to get things done.

When we think of forms, contact forms or surveys come to mind. And our first association with forms is the boredom of filling long and tedious ones.

But if you think about it, forms are virtually everywhere.

When you leave a comment on social media, you do so with a form. When you carry out a search on Google, you enter your keyword or phrase on a form.

We also use forms to make payments online, book appointments, register for events, and so much more.

It’s easy to overlook the importance of making user-friendly and attractive forms. But in this post, we’ll understand the anatomy of a form, i.e., the key parts of a good form. Understanding this will help you create forms that convert. 

Your audience will complete forms that they start filling out. They’ll reach out to you more. They’ll complete their shopping on your site or fill out your newsletter subscription form and help your business grow. 

Anatomy of a form

The features that make up a form are basic and straightforward. You have:

  • The form fields where people enter information
  • The labels that inform users what they should fill in each field
  • Buttons so that users can submit their information
  • Tooltips that appear to a user as they enter information so that they get more information on what content to enter
  • The subsequent message or feedback that users see once they fill and submit a form

These are the parts of a form that appear to a user on the screen. However, there are ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects to a form too. 

For example, when a user enters unwanted characters in their username or fails to use the ‘@’ symbol when entering their email, a good form tool will pick this up and let users know that they have to make the right changes. 

These items make up the typical form you come across, and the next section will cover more useful information that you can use. 

How to optimize your form

Now that we’ve covered the basic features of a form, let’s dive into how you can optimize forms on your website and mobile platforms. 

1. Organize your form

If you have a lengthy form on your websites like a job application form or a survey, then you need to break it down into smaller pieces.

You can add separate sections to your form so that things like personal details are grouped together, and work experience appears in another section.

Another way to deal with long forms is to create Tabs. Your form will get split into ‘pages’ without actually making users move to another page. Users can switch between tabs to fill in the information. Banking and testing activities often use this means to organize forms. 

And finally, you can simply break up your form so that people fill in certain information on a single page, and when they’re done, they click a ‘Next’ button and move to the next page, where they continue filling in the content. 

The important thing to remember is that you should reduce fatigue and resistance as much as possible. People get overwhelmed by long forms and find it easier to deal with sections and groups at a time before. You’ll have a higher rate of completed forms when you split up long forms into smaller groups. 

2. Use conditional logic

Conditional logic is where you display certain fields based on input provided by the form filler. 

You’ve probably come across this at some point in your experience. For example, if you’re asked to enter your country for shipping details, the next field in the form automatically changes to show states that exist in that country. 

Using conditional logic to present fields only when they’re necessary does a few important things:

You reduce the number of fields customers have to fill in, making it easier for them.

It becomes easier to get the right information by compelling users to provide the necessary information. 

You can redirect your form submission to the right department based on the user’s choices. For example, in a customer support form, a customer chooses ‘Billing and Payments’ as their issue will get sent to the billing department. While someone with a tech issue gets help from your development and sales team

You can show different success messages to users based on their choices after they submit their forms.

Working with conditional logic will allow you to build smarter forms that save time. Your audience will appreciate having to do less work filling up forms, and you’ll see benefits through higher form conversion rates

3. Create well-spaced simple forms

The golden rule for making forms is to keep them as short as possible. When creating a newsletter form, stick to the name, email address field, and a submit button. Keep your contact forms to just four or five fields. 

To make a good form, you need to be aware of sizing, spacing, and other elements like design which includes colors, the font used, and more. 

Unless you’re familiar with programming and UX/UI, your best outcomes will come from using a form plugin or tool that has in-built templates and follows good design principles. All you’ll have to do is make your form, and it should look good regardless of the site theme or device it’s working with. 

4. Optimize your success messages

Once users have submitted a form, they need to see a confirmation message of some kind. Many businesses simply have a success message flash on the screen and disappear. For others, a simple ‘Your form has been sent’ appears below or right next to the submit button.

However, you can create another opportunity for your business to engage your users more after they fill a form. 

You can redirect your users to a landing page once they’ve finished submitting their message or signed up for your email newsletter. 

On this page, you can link to your blog posts, request users to share your content on social media, or offer a free download. You have an opportunity to continue interacting with your user and build familiarity with your business. 

5. Make your forms responsive

A critical mistake that any business can make is not to make their forms mobile responsive. Your forms should look and feel easy to use whether a person is typing on them via their phone or their desktop.

Make sure that you test your form tool on multiple devices to see if everything is working as it should. 

Conclusion

We’ve looked at the anatomy of the form and important steps you should take to optimize it. You may have noticed that carrying out these suggestions can be difficult unless you’re well-versed in building web forms. 

An easy way for anyone to build forms that convert for their website is to use a good form plugin. By optimizing your forms, you’ll make your website user-friendly and boost your chances of creating a successful online business. 

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