Form UI Design: 13 Tips That Can Triple Your Conversion Rates

Brian Bojan Dordevic
About The Author

Brian Dordevic

Brian is Marketing Strategic Planner with a passion for all things digital. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or schedule a consultation call with him.

Do you feel like low form completion rates are preventing you from making the most out of your marketing strategy? Yet, you’re unsure how to improve your form UI design to make it more enjoyable for potential customers.

This bottleneck in your funnel doesn’t just impact your immediate campaign results; it also affects long-term customer engagement and data collection, which are essential for personalized marketing. The frustration builds up, as does the stress of un  derperformance.

But there’s good news. The key to unlocking higher conversion rates might be simpler than you think. It all comes down to mastering form UI design. Drawing from over a decade of experience as the owner of a Chicago web design agency, where I’ve worked on more than 500 website projects, I’ve seen firsthand how pivotal well-designed form UI can be. I’ve distilled this experience into 13 actionable tips that I regularly share with my team to elevate their form design skills.

Implementing some of these strategies helped us triple conversion rates for some of our clients, and I believe it can do the same for you. In this article, I’m going to walk you through each of these 13 tips, explaining not just the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’ behind their effectiveness.

Table of Contents:
form ui design

A Poor Form UI Design Can Hinder Your Digital Marketing Efforts

I’ve seen many businesses build a strong inbound marketing funnel, and it all looked great on paper. However, they weren’t able to generate leads effectively or make sales. Where was the problem? In an inadequate UI design for forms.

UI design for forms is essential for making your strategies work. It’s not about making your forms look flashy. It’s about making the process of filling them out as smooth as possible. When your form is easy to use, people stay focused on what they’ll get after filling it out instead of getting annoyed and giving up halfway.

There are several key reasons why form UI design is pivotal for digital marketing success:

  • First Impressions Matter: The form is often one of the first points of active engagement between a potential customer and your business. A well-designed form sets a positive tone for this budding relationship.
  • User-Friendly Equals User-Completion: A form that is easy to navigate encourages completion. Complex or confusing forms can lead to high abandonment rates, directly impacting your conversion goals.
  • Data Quality and Quantity: A thoughtfully designed form not only boosts completion rates but also ensures the quality of data collected. This is crucial for future personalized marketing efforts and understanding your audience better.
  • Reduced Friction, Increased Conversions: Forms are the gatekeepers of conversion. A smooth, intuitive form UI minimizes user frustration, keeping them on the path to conversion rather than leading them astray.
  • Reflects Brand Professionalism: Your form’s design is a reflection of your brand. A sophisticated and user-friendly form conveys a message of professionalism and attention to detail.
  • Mobile Optimization: With the increasing use of mobile devices, forms must be optimized for different screens. A form that is not mobile-friendly can significantly deter users who prefer browsing on their phones or tablets.
  • Enhanced User Experience: Ultimately, form UI design is critical to the overall user experience. A positive experience aids immediate conversion and lays the foundation for a long-term relationship with your audience.

By investing in high-quality form UI design, you are enhancing the user’s journey and significantly boosting the efficacy of your marketing strategies. In this article, you’ll find thirteen tips for creating beautiful form UI. But first, let’s discuss four main goals to keep in mind before you start designing forms.

4 pillars of an effective form ui design

Four Pillars Of An Effective Form UI Design

When designing a form UI that converts, there are four key pillars you need to consider. Each of these pillars plays a crucial role in how your forms perform and how they contribute to your overall digital marketing success. If you are wondering, “Why is my conversion rate so low?” – check your forms to see if each of these four principles is incorporated:

Accuracy – Do users know what information they need to provide?

The first pillar is about making sure users know exactly what information they need to provide. This means your form should be clear about what data is required and in what format.

For instance, if you need a phone number, specify the format you expect (e.g., with or without country code). The key is to prevent confusion, which can lead to errors or, worse, users abandoning the form altogether. Clear instructions and examples can guide users, making the form-filling process straightforward and error-free.

Efficiency – How quickly can users complete forms?

The second pillar focuses on how quickly and easily users can complete your forms. The faster and simpler it is to fill out a form, the more likely users are to do it. This is especially important for longer forms.

In the case of long form UI design, breaking down the form into smaller, digestible sections with clear progress indicators helps maintain user engagement. Efficiency also involves optimizing the form layout so users spend minimal time searching for the next field or button.

Usability – Are your forms intuitive?

Usability is all about making your form intuitive. Users should be able to navigate through the form effortlessly and be certain about their actions.

This includes clear indications of successful form submission and obvious calls to action for what to do next. The goal is to make the user’s journey through the form as smooth as possible, reducing any potential confusion or uncertainty.

Security – Forms can endanger your business if you don’t take the necessary measures

Last but not least, security is a critical aspect of form UI design. Your forms should protect both the user’s data and your website from security threats.

You must implement measures like input validation to prevent malicious data entry and secure data transmission. Making your forms secure protects your site and builds trust with your users, assuring them that their information is safe with you.

13 Form UI Design Tips To Boost Your Conversions

Now I’ve prepared 13 best practices for form UI design Alpha Efficiency is using. Each tip, grounded in proven form-design guidelines, is a stepping stone towards significantly boosting your conversion rates. You’ll gain insights not just into ‘what’ to do but also ‘why’ these strategies work so effectively.

Keep Your Forms As Simple As Possible To Get More Users To Complete Them

There’s a clear connection between the length of a form and how likely people are to finish it. Statistics point to an interesting fact: the sweet spot for form length is around 5 fields. This number isn’t just a random guess; in my years of designing forms and tweaking conversion rates, I’ve found that forms with about 5 fields often get the best response.

Now, finding the right balance is key. You’ve got information you need to gather, but how do you decide what’s absolutely necessary? My advice: make a list of the information you absolutely need. Rank them in order of importance. This makes it easier to decide which fields make the cut and which don’t.

The bottom line is, don’t overload your forms with too many questions. It’s tempting to try and gather as much data as possible, but if your form is too long or too complex, people are more likely to give up halfway. Keep it short and sweet, and you’ll see more users making it all the way through and reduced drop-off rates.

Context for form

Consider Context When Choosing A Form Layout

There’s a common belief that one-column layouts are superior to multi-column layouts for form UI design. However, from my experience, that’s not necessarily a truth.

The best choice depends heavily on the context of your landing page form.

Using a one-column layout does have its advantages. It aligns well with the natural ‘top-to-bottom’ reading pattern, which can make forms easier to navigate and reduce confusion. This is particularly important when adhering to usability best practices. However, the trade-off is that one-column layouts can consume a lot of vertical space, which is something to consider, especially in long form UI design.

On the other hand, multi-column layouts can be quite efficient in certain scenarios. Take, for example, inputting credit card details. This is where a multi-column layout shines, as it mirrors the format of a credit card, making it intuitive for users to fill out. It saves space and subtly guides users on the expected character count for each field.

However, when it comes to more standard information like names, email addresses, and company details, a single column layout often works best. In these cases, placing form fields one below the other aligns with the natural reading pattern and minimizes user confusion.

Ultimately, it’s about choosing the right layout for the right situation. Whether it’s a single column for straightforward, linear information or a multi-column approach for more complex data like credit card information, the key is to keep the user’s ease and intuition at the forefront of your design decisions. Remember, the goal is always to create a form that feels natural and effortless for users to complete.

If you’re struggling to decide, you can use UX research tools to identify which layout provides is more enjoyable to users.

Use Clear Labels And Avoid Technical Language

In form UX design, clarity is king. This is especially true when it comes to the labels you use in your website forms. The importance of clear, straightforward field labels cannot be overstated. The goal is to make your forms as accessible and easy to understand as possible for a wide range of users.

One common pitfall is the use of technical jargon or industry-specific language. While this might be second nature to you and your team, it can be confusing or even off-putting to your audience. Instead, opt for simple, plain language that anyone can understand. For example, instead of using a technical term like ‘telecommunications number’, just use ‘phone number’. It’s direct, clear, and leaves no room for confusion.

Also, when designing form labels, make sure they are distinct and easy to associate with the corresponding input fields. Users shouldn’t have to guess what information is required in each field. Ambiguity can lead to errors in form completion, which can frustrate users and potentially lead to higher abandonment rates.

Remember, the easier your form is to understand and complete, the more likely users are to submit it. Clear labels and straightforward language play a crucial role in making your forms user-friendly and effective. Keep it simple, and your users will thank you for it.

Form label placement example

Place Labels Above Form Fields To Make Them Scannable

Here’s a simple yet powerful tip from my years of working on form design: Put your labels right above your form fields. It’s a small change that can make a big difference in how users interact with your forms.

Here’s why this works so well: When labels are above the fields, your form naturally fits into the way we all scan pages – top to bottom. It’s straightforward and comfortable.  By positioning the labels above the fields, you eliminate the need for the ‘Z’ reading pattern, which requires more eye movement and effort from the user.

I’ve noticed that side-placed labels work fine for shorter forms, but the moment you have more than a couple of fields, it’s a whole different ball game. In longer forms, side labels can make things feel cluttered and harder to follow. Users might find themselves going back and forth between the label and the field, which can slow down the completion process and lead to errors or form abandonment.

dropdowns vs radio buttons

The choice between dropdowns and radio buttons might seem like a minor detail, but these small decisions can significantly impact user experience. Understanding the best use cases for each form component is crucial.

Let’s break it down:

  • Dropdowns: These are great for saving space, especially when you have a long list of options. They keep your form looking neat and manageable. However, the downside is that they can hide options from view, requiring an extra click from users. This can be a bit of a hassle if you want them to scan all available options quickly.
  • Radio Buttons: On the other hand, radio buttons lay all options out in the open, making them immediately visible. This is fantastic for forms where you want users to quickly assess all available choices without any extra clicks. The trade-off? They can take up more space, which might make your form look longer and potentially more daunting.

So, here’s my tip: Use dropdowns when you have a long list of options or when you’re tight on space. They are also a good pick when the choice isn’t critical to the overall understanding of the form. But, when the options are few and are vital for the user to see right away, go with radio buttons. This approach aligns with best practices in form design, ensuring your forms are both functional and user-friendly.

Provide Autofill Option To Streamline User Experience

Remember the second pillar of form UI designs that we discussed at the beginning of this article? Efficiency. Providing an autofill functionality with your website forms is a huge step toward achieving efficiency.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Enable Browser Autofill: Modern browsers have built-in autofill functionalities. By correctly naming your form fields (like ’email’, ‘phone’, ‘address’), you help browsers recognize and autofill these fields with stored user information. This is particularly useful for standard fields such as email address input fields and phone numbers.
  • Use HTML5 Input Types: HTML5 offers various input field options that are specifically designed for different types of data, like email, tel (telephone numbers), and number (for numeric inputs like a card number). Utilizing these input types not only aids in browser-based autofill but also enhances mobile user experience by bringing up the appropriate keyboard.
  • Leverage Third-Party Autofill Services: Consider integrating with third-party autofill services that users commonly employ. These services store user data securely and fill in the fields automatically when the user permits it. This step can be particularly beneficial for fields like credit card and billing information, streamlining the checkout process.
  • Implement Smart Defaults: For fields like country or language, set smart defaults based on the user’s location or browser settings. This reduces the number of fields a user needs to fill out manually.
  • Respect User Privacy: While autofill is about convenience, it’s also crucial to respect user privacy. Ensure that your form’s autofill functionality is transparent and secure, giving users control over what information is stored and autofilled.

By providing an autofill option, you significantly cut down the time and effort required to fill out a form. It’s a thoughtful addition that shows you value your users’ time.

optional fields best practices

Mark Optional Fields To Prevent Confusion

It’s not uncommon to include both mandatory and optional fields on web forms on lead capture pages. However, if you don’t clearly distinguish between the two, it can lead to a confusing and frustrating form UX.

Users might be deterred by the sheer number of fields, not realizing that they aren’t required to fill out every single one. This confusion can potentially lower your form’s completion rates.

So, how do you make optional fields stand out and avoid this pitfall? Here’s what to do:

  • Label Them Clearly: The most straightforward approach is to label optional fields with the word ‘Optional’. Place this label next to the field title, so it’s immediately visible. This clarity helps users understand that they have the choice to skip these fields if they wish.
  • Use Different Styles: Apply a different style to optional fields. This could be a lighter font color, a different background, or a subtle icon. These visual cues can quickly signal to the user that these fields are not mandatory.
  • Group Them Separately: If possible, group all optional fields in a separate section of the form. This physical separation makes it easier for users to focus on the essential fields first and then decide if they want to provide additional information.
  • Consider Defaults: For some optional fields, you can provide default values that users can choose to change if they want. This approach can save time for users who may otherwise feel obligated to fill out these fields.
  • Offer Tooltips or Help Text: Sometimes, the reason for an optional field may not be obvious. Providing a tooltip or a short help text can explain why you’re asking for this information and how it could benefit the user if they choose to provide it.

By making your optional fields visually distinctive and clearly marked, you alleviate user stress and make your form more approachable. This thoughtful design choice can improve the overall user experience and, in turn, help maintain or even increase your form completion rates.

grouping form fields

Group Fields Logically To Avoid Overwhelming Users

Logically grouping fields is a game-changer in form design, especially for something as intricate as an account creation form. This approach, a result of insightful usability research and user testing, simplifies the process for users and enhances the overall user flow. By categorizing fields into intuitive sections like ‘Personal Information,’ ‘Payment Details,’ and ‘Marketing Preferences’, you make the form more navigable and user-friendly.

Understanding user requirements for a website design is the first step. What information do users need to provide, and how do they expect to give it? This understanding will guide you in arranging your fields. For instance, you wouldn’t mix contact details with payment information, as it disrupts the logical flow and confuses users.

If you’re unsure how to organize fields thematically, conducting user testing is a good idea. It offers real-time insights into how users perceive and interact with your form. Observing users as they navigate through the form can highlight areas for improvement that you might have overlooked.

I advise using visual cues like headings or subtle color changes to differentiate between sections in long-form user interface design. These cues act as signposts, guiding users through your form, and making it clear which fields are related. This reduces the cognitive load on users, making the form-filling less intimidating and more efficient.

When you group fields logically, you’re directly improving the usability and intuitiveness of your form, ensuring users have a smooth experience from start to finish.

Progress bar form UI design

Add Progress Bars And Multi-Screen Format For Long Forms

When it comes to multi step form UI design, incorporating progress bars and a multi-screen format can significantly enhance the user experience, especially for longer forms. These elements play a crucial role in making progress visible and manageable for users.

Progress bars are an excellent way to visually communicate how much of the form has been completed and how much is left. This visual cue is particularly helpful in multi-step forms, where users might otherwise feel overwhelmed by the length or complexity of the process. By clearly displaying progress, these bars provide a sense of achievement and motivate users to complete the form. They also help in setting expectations about the time and effort required, reducing the chances of users abandoning the form midway.

The multi-screen format complements progress bars by breaking down a long form into smaller, more digestible sections. This approach makes the form filling process less daunting. Instead of confronting users with a long page of fields, a multi-screen format guides them through a series of shorter steps. This not only makes the form seem more manageable but also helps in organizing the information logically and clearly.

Inline validation for forms

Use Inline Validation To Help Users Correct Mistakes Faster

Inline validation is a technique where the form immediately checks the user’s input as they type or move onto the next field. This immediate feedback mechanism is a staple of intuitive interaction design, offering real-time responses to the user’s form responses.

For instance, as soon as a user inputs text, such as an email address, the form validates it for correctness and either shows a green checkmark for a correct entry or a red flag for an error, with a hint to correct it.

The benefits of inline validation are numerous. Firstly, it significantly reduces user frustration by catching errors early. Instead of completing an entire form only to be greeted with a list of errors, users can make corrections as they go, ensuring they are always making progress.

It also serves to enhance accessibility, aiding users who might need more guidance through the form. By adhering to modern usability standards, inline validation creates a sense of professionalism and care in the user interface, promoting user trust and confidence in the form and, by extension, your brand.

To implement inline validation effectively, consider the following tips:

  • Ensure the feedback is clear and constructive, guiding the user on how to correct the error.
  • Use visual cues like color changes (red for errors, green for correct input) and icons (like checkmarks or exclamation marks).
  • Be mindful of the tone of your error messages; they should be helpful, not critical.
  • Test your validation rigorously to ensure it accurately identifies errors without causing unnecessary obstructions, balancing between being informative and non-intrusive.

Sans-Serif Typeface Works Best For The Form UI Design

While there are instances where a carefully selected Serif font can be effective, my experience has shown that a sans-serif typeface often emerges as the safer and more reliable choice. The reason behind this preference is rooted in the nature of the sans-serif typeface, particularly its large x-height. This characteristic ensures that even the lowercase letters in your text field are relatively large and more legible.

The larger x-height of sans-serif fonts contributes significantly to readability. Users find it easier to scan and comprehend information, which is crucial in form fields where clarity is paramount. This aspect of sans-serif fonts becomes especially important when considering accessibility issues. People with visual impairments or reading difficulties often find sans-serif fonts easier to read, making your forms more inclusive.

Understanding why typography is important in web design is key to creating effective and user-friendly forms. Typography doesn’t just carry the content; it enhances the user experience. In forms, where users are required to read and input information, the clarity provided by sans-serif fonts can substantially reduce the cognitive load. This, in turn, can lead to better user engagement and higher form completion rates.

Sans-serif fonts offer a clean, modern look that aligns well with most web design aesthetics, ensuring your forms are not only functional but also visually appealing.

Avoid Captchas Whenever Possible To Avoid Frustrating Users

Captchas are those little tests you often see on a login form or similar web pages, usually asking you to identify a series of letters, numbers, or images. Their main job is to make sure a real person, not a computer program (like a bot), is filling out the form.

However, while Captchas are good for preventing spam and automated responses, they can interrupt the smooth experience, or user flow, you’re trying to create in UX design.

The challenge with Captchas lies in their potential to frustrate users. Imagine you’re filling out a form smoothly and then suddenly, you’re faced with a hard-to-read puzzle. This sudden stop can be annoying, especially if the Captcha is complex or unclear. From a design perspective, it’s crucial to consider how such interruptions affect the overall experience.

Of course, Captchas have their place, particularly in scenarios where security is a top priority. They are essential in some use cases for protecting against automated attacks. However, it’s important to weigh their use against the potential inconvenience to users.

If you need to use them, choose user-friendly options and deploy them judiciously to maintain a balance between security needs and a seamless user experience.

Advanced options like invisible reCAPTCHA offer security without disrupting the user journey, providing an excellent alternative to traditional Captchas.

Submit button in form design

Disable The “Submit” Button Until User Completes All Required Fields

A common and effective strategy is to disable the action button until the user has completed all required fields. This method is not just about guiding the user through the form; it’s about enhancing the overall interaction with these crucial form elements.

Why does this approach work? Firstly, it prevents users from submitting incomplete or incorrect forms. Imagine a user clicking the submit button only to receive an error message because they missed a field. This can be frustrating and may make users feel discouraged. By disabling the button, you subtly guide them through the necessary steps, ensuring all required information is provided before submission.

Moreover, this tactic adds to the overall CTA design. A primary button that is visually distinct and becomes active only after all fields are completed draws attention to the completion status of the form. It’s a clear signal to users: ‘You’re all set to go now.’

However, it’s important to handle this feature sensitively to ensure users don’t feel confused or stuck. Accompany the disabled button with clear instructions or cues about what’s left to be filled out. For example, fields that are yet to be completed can be highlighted, or a small text can appear near the button explaining why it’s still inactive.

Incorporating this method in your form design can enhance the user experience by making users feel more confident about the information they are submitting. It ensures that the action of submitting the form is meaningful and final, enhancing the user’s sense of accomplishment upon completion.

How To Test Your Form UI Design?

Testing your form UI design is a critical step in ensuring that it meets the end-user needs and aligns with the best form UX design practices. Here’s a comprehensive approach to testing your form:

  1. Test All Input Fields and Variables: Start by rigorously testing every input field. This means checking text boxes, radio buttons, checkboxes, and dropdown menus. Pay close attention to how each field handles different types of input text. Make sure that error messages appear correctly and are helpful. This micro-level testing ensures that each element of your form functions as intended.
  2. Test Across Various Browsers: Different browsers can display forms differently. What works well on one browser might not on another. Test your form on all major browsers to ensure consistency in design and functionality. This step is crucial to avoid alienating users who might prefer one browser over another.
  3. Test on Mobile Devices: Given the increasing use of mobile devices, you must pay close attention to mobile form design. Test on various smartphones and tablets to ensure that the form is responsive, easy to navigate, and the text fields are easily accessible on smaller screens.
  4. Conduct User Testing: Real user feedback is invaluable. User testing involves observing real people as they interact with your form. This approach can reveal insights into user behavior and preferences that you might not have considered. It helps in understanding the practical challenges and frustrations users might face.
  5. Use A/B Testing Post-Launch: After launching your form, A/B testing is a great way to fine-tune it. This involves creating two versions of your form, each with slight variations in design or content, and then measuring which version performs better. A/B testing can lead to informative team debates and further improvements in your form design.

Each of these testing methods provides unique insights and helps in creating a form that is not only visually appealing but also highly functional and user-friendly. Remember, the goal is to craft a form that meets the needs of your users in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible.

Conclusion

As we wrap up this comprehensive guide on form UI design, remember that the journey towards improving your forms is a continuous one. Each element, from the typography to the layout, plays a crucial role in how users interact with your forms and, by extension, your brand. The key is to keep testing, iterating, and staying attuned to the needs and feedback of your users. Embrace these tips not as static rules, but as tools for experimentation and growth.

If you’re looking to dive deeper and explore how tailored web design improvements can elevate your business, I’m here to help. Let’s schedule a call to discuss how we can work together to refine your digital presence and boost your conversions.

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