When it comes to enquiry and contact web forms on corporate websites, we are often advised to keep it simple and brief and never ask for more data than you can use. The natural assumption is that marketers won't use more than basic information such as e-mail address and maybe name, so that's all you need. But what you need is what you are going to use right? Are you perhaps short changing your customers and yourself by not asking for the right information? Of course there is a difference between web forms for surveying and enquiries but, still, the KISS principle is often advised in web forms and usability in general.
The most obvious benefit to asking for some defining data is that you can then employ it to better split and target your lists and provide more relevant data. If you aren't going to use the data to do this then there really isn't much point in asking for anything beyond the most basic.
However, as Paul Rouke points out in a recent post for Smart Insights, rather than using a generic "details" field in a contact form, you should consider a longer form on your landing page which allows the user to choose specific points of interest regarding their enquiry.
According to Mr. Rouke, there are benefits for both the business and the client in using a longer form. You can demonstrate the range of your products and services while weeding out any "time wasters" who don't wish to be specific. You also get more qualified leads and enquiries are more detailed/structured and easier to respond to. Finally, you can come across as being more professional compared to your competitors.
Make your required web form fields clear
Benefits for the visitor include a more intelligent and tailored form where they are able to specify their requirements quickly by ticking them off and not typing them out. They get the impression you've made the extra effort to understand their possible requirements and they get a clear idea of the range of your products and services. Finally, they can easily provide more detail regarding their requirements.
He provides a number of enquiry form best practices to consider as well. Your required fields should be clear and at the top of the form and avoid using a "back" or "clear" button since they are distractions. Make sure your call to action is very prominent on the page and use more inviting text than "send" or "submit". Don't ask people for unnecessary data which you won't use and clarify why you are asking for some fields (if not clear) using a tool-tip along side the field. If you have a long form, break it up and organize it into logical categories. Use friendly, casual wording for error messages and provide details of any errors (what was missing or wrong) above the form. Use inline validation on important fields to give the user immediate feedback if something is wrong. And provide a thank you landing page which also provides links to resources or other related information which might be helpful and promotional.
You can also consider having a short form for basic enquiries on your page. Don't make all your fields mandatory - that's just going to frustrate and drive people away. You can also include a "call back" request option for your visitors.
An enquiry form is your virtual front door and over complicating it or over simplifying, is like having a door bell on your office entrance which is 10 feet up in the air. If you want more conversions, then make sure your front door online is open for business.
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