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Formula for success

1 July 2011

Jonathan Purchase offers his top tips for creating campaign actions supporters want to fill out

From my experience, organisations spend a comparatively small amount of time focusing on the layout of their campaign actions – most of the effort goes into the content. Obviously the message that’s delivered to the campaign target is vital, but how the action looks to your supporters is important too… and one of the key elements is the form fields. 

Below are some tips as to how you can make your forms more appealing, hopefully leading to a higher number of actions taken, or donations received.

  • Make sure your form is "above the fold"

If your supporters have to scroll down to get to the form fields, they may well be put off, even if the website template is designed nicely.  Make sure the ‘call to action’ is obvious on the page.  If you’re finding this tricky, try to set your form fields to display in two columns, that way you’ll have more space to work with.

  • Think before you make mandatory

We often see forms with far too many mandatory form fields. This really can stop people from filling a form in. Only use them where you absolutely need to.

  • Try different types of form fields

Use radio buttons and ‘drop-down’ lists to run alongside the standard text boxes. Pre-defined values in form fields are great if you want to ensure exact and consistent answers for your database. If possible, play around with different types of form fields: vertical or horizontal radio buttons, text boxes or drop down lists that are split up (for example to capture date of birth in three boxes). But keep it simple; you want to make it clear to your supporters what they need to fill in.

  • Error alerts and validations

If your supporters aren’t filling in all the required details or are completing things in the wrong format, you need to let them know.  Consider displaying error messages next to the form field that has the error, that way they’ll know exactly what they need to do to continue and are less likely to give up. The error could be text and/or an icon to highlight the problem. Error alerts are a vital element to the form layout, if you don’t have them in place, you’ll see a significant drop off on the number of actions taken.

  • Test!

As always, different forms work for different supporters or organisations, so try a few layouts out and test the results to see what works for you. Once you have a winning formula, I would suggest sticking to it. You don’t want to keep changing things for the sake of it, as your supporters may get confused.

Jonathan Purchase

head of UK market development, Engaging Networks