Form Best Practices & Recommendations

Web and Creative Services has put together some best practices and recommendations for our admissions forms. It’s our goal to have forms that are easy to use, intuitive for our users, and offer the best experience, getting the user on their way as quickly as possible.

The fewer obstacles we have in between them and registering for an event, requesting information, or applying, the better!

Length of the Form

Keep forms short and simple. It might be exciting to have lots of fields and rules in place but keep in mind that we’re trying to make the form appealing to our users—not us. Get straight to the point by sticking to the essentials. Conversion rates will rise and, ultimately, our users will have more energy to visit additional webpages.

But we want as much information as we can get from them, right?

Wrong. It’s tempting to want to collect every bit of information about who they are, what they’re looking for, and what they need from us. However, the longer our forms are, the less likely it is that our users will actually finish filling them out.

What to Ask

Start by determining the minimum amount of information that we can capture. Go through each piece of information and ask yourself, “Is this information absolutely necessary?” Any non-essential details can be gathered later. Collect just enough information through your form so you can contact and qualify the lead.

But it would be really beneficial to know their dog’s name!

Obviously this isn’t an actual question we’d put on our forms, but the general principle is the same. In a relationship, you would become distrustful of someone who asked questions that were out of place. The same thing happens online. Our users may start to question why we’re capturing certain kinds of information when it’s clearly not needed. They might feel like filling out the form is wasting their time or, worst of all it, they might begin to distrust us.

What Not to Ask

Hopefully by now you’ve narrowed down what you should ask on your forms. But in case you’d like some specific recommendations, we’ve listed them here. This list won’t be exhaustive because we have many different forms for many different users but here are some general questions we try to stay away from on your typical request information or register for an event forms.

  • Preferred first name
    This is an example of info that’s not necessary. If we want to ask about this, we can do that in our personal contact with the student.
  • Date of birth
    More unnecessary info. Users don’t need to provide date of birth to learn about Bethel or attend an event. This is one of those questions that can lead to them distrust us.
  • Preferred contact method
    If we want to know how they prefer to be contacted, let’s ask them the first time we get in touch with them.
  • Which phone number is this?
    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which phone number we’re calling. The phone number they provide is likely the one they’d like us to call.
  • Program/academic interest
    Usually we only need to know their academic interest for our own internal processes. Unless it’s absolutely necessary (meaning we’re going to do something specific with the information that helps them move through the process), let’s find this out at another touch point.
  • Military status or citizenship
    These details apply to such a limited number of users that they shouldn’t be on our main forms.
  • Option to opt in to emails
    If people are requesting information or registering for an event, we are going to contact them for other things. We provide an opt out line on our emails. That’s where our users can opt out. We never want to require people to OPT IN to receive info from us.

If you have major concerns remember these are recommendations and feel free to contact us.

Sources

Here are some sites where we found research and good information to help us with these best practices.

We also took a look at the following schools to compare their forms and help us develop our recommendations.

  • Western Conservative
  • Northern Seminary
  • Trinity Evangelical Divinity Seminary
  • Gordon-Conwell
  • Nyack Seminary
  • Asbury Seminary
  • Fuller Seminary
  • Denver Seminary
  • Talbot Seminary
  • Luther Seminary
  • Haggard School of Theology
  • Dallas Theological Seminary
  • Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan
  • Liberty University
  • St. Mary’s
  • Hamline
  • Metro State
  • St. Thomas
  • Century College
  • Anoka Ramsey CC
  • Walden University
  • St. Cloud State
  • Augsburg
  • Liberty University
  • North Hennepin CC
  • Inver Hills CC
  • University of Phoenix
  • Butler University
  • Concordia College
  • Biola University
  • University of Northwestern