Last updated Feb 26 2020

CRO glossary: form conversion

What is form conversion?

Form conversion happens when a website visitor completes and successfully submits an online form. Form submission is usually the final hurdle in the conversion process, and a successful result is a micro-conversion that makes macro-conversions (e.g., newsletter sign-ups, purchases) possible. 

Having to enter personal information (name, email address, credit card info, etc.) requires effort on a visitor’s part, so creating straightforward, easy-to-complete forms is key to an optimization strategy. 

Why is form conversion important?

It’s easy to overlook the value of a well-designed form. It’s not nearly as exciting as choosing bold imagery or writing persuasive copy—but it’s just as important, if not more so.

If a visitor gets all the way to the form and starts to fill it out, it means you’ve already sold them on the idea of converting. You’ve successfully countered their objections, and they’re willing to give you their personal information—but if you fail to make this last step easy? They might be moving on to the next website.

Building a better form

There are some general principles for creating good forms, and plenty of form builders that will help you do so:

  • Keep fields to a minimum and only ask what you really need to know
  • Start with the easiest questions and move on to the most complex ones
  • Present a logical flow from one field to the next

You’ll find all these concepts in articles about best practices for web forms, but understand that these are only guidelines. If you follow other people’s ideas about how a form should look without testing them, you might fall victim to something we call death by best practices.

Death by best practices occurs when companies get lazy and follow design advice based on what works for other companies. Sure, those companies know what works for their customers and their market, but your customers and your market might want something else entirely.

The only way to know what your customers want is to study their behavior and perform A/B test or multivariate tests to see what works.

Figure out what to test in 2 steps

A/B testing is never the place to stumble across new ideas, and that’s just as true for testing forms as it is for other page elements.

Remember: testing is the final step in the CRO process. First, you need to come up with data-driven hypotheses about what will get more people to complete your forms. Behavior analytics tools such as heatmaps and session recordings can help you do just that.

1. Study heatmaps

Heatmaps show you a visual representation of where visitors click, scroll, and hover their mouse pointers in aggregate. They also show where visitors tap their screens on mobile devices.

A heatmap will show you where most people give up when filling out a low converting form:


In the example above, there are at least three issues with the form that a heatmap immediately picks up:

  • This is a registration page, but the main ‘sign up’ call-to-action (CTA) gets clicked less than the competing ‘sign in’ link (the red blob at the bottom)
  • The fields get progressively less attention, giving people several opportunities to abandon the form before submission
  • The fifth field is getting bypassed—but it is a mandatory one, so if people click on ‘sign up’ after skipping it they receive an error

These are just a few examples of what you can learn from a strategically placed heatmap.

2. Watch Session Recordings

Once you’ve got a sense of how visitors as a whole interact with your forms, you can dive into session recordings and see how individual visitors behave around them.

When you play a Session Recording of a form being filled in and submitted, it’s like looking over the shoulder of a user as they attempt to complete the task. You will not see their private information, but you will be able to observe where they stumble or get hung up.

Once you’ve got the data, it’s time to come up with a hypothesis about what you could change to increase conversions. Focus on the things that will likely offer the biggest return and A/B test them.

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