What belongs in your sign-up form?

Simple sign-up forms for promotional email don’t need much thought. A field for the address, a submit button…done! Slap it up on your web pages and wait for that list to grow. Yay!

Or not yay!

Handing over an email address is a commitment, so the sign-up form needs to eliminate any friction – emotional or technical – from the sign-up process.

Recently we talked about selling the sign-up by communicating the value of joining your list. Here are seven other elements worth considering in sign-up form design and copy:

1. Field labels?

Make sure people understand that to get on the list they need to enter their email address in the appropriate field and hit the button.

It may not be as obvious as you think. While submit buttons tend to be intuitively clear(!), address fields aren’t. The sign-up form for our FreshPerspectives newsletter labels each field clearly, so there’s no room for confusion.

2. Form design?

If the form is not the centerpiece of the web page, will people notice it? Position is important, but so is the styling. Test background colors, font size and color etc. to optimize sign-up rates.

3. Number of form fields?

The aim at this stage is to ensure you get a sign-up. So the initial form typically asks just for the email address and only those additional data points that are important to your email strategy. The right number of initial fields depends on the trade-off between the value of additional data and the lower form completion rate associated with asking for that information. Collecting customer data during and after sign-up is a topic we’ll look at more closely in future.

4. Privacy reassurance?

You can reassure potential subscribers that you will handle their address with care with a clear statement in the form itself or a link to an appropriate privacy policy.

If you’re a trusted brand, you may not need such an assurance in the form itself. It takes up valuable space and might even raise privacy concerns in the minds of visitors who would otherwise never have considered the issue.

The right approach depends on your situation and is something worth testing.

5. Indication of frequency?

You might also test the value of indicating your likely emailing frequency. It sets the correct expectations, so new subscribers are less likely to regret their decision.

If you do mention frequency, give yourself enough flexibility to cover frequency peaks (such as during the holiday shopping season) or planned additional email streams (such as new behavioral email programs).

6. Samples?

You might link to an email archive or sample email. This allows you to demonstrate the value of your emails. It also alerts people to their design, so they’re more likely to pick out the welcome message in their inbox.

7. Test?

What works best in a sign-up form often depends on the unique combination of sender, email and audience. So test alternatives to find what works for you.

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