When it comes to lead generation, form submissions are arguably the most important part of the conversion process. Especially for a company that relies on leads to bring in new business, it is a digital marketing best practice to include at least static forms on all site pages, as easy access to forms is critical for increasing the number of viable leads brought in by a given website.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself – “wait, so it can be as easy as slapping a simple four-field form on every page of my site, and suddenly I’ll get tons of leads?” Not so fast! Just because utilizing forms is a proven method for bringing in new leads doesn’t mean there aren’t right and wrong ways to go about doing so. With careful planning, smart design, and lots of testing, you’ll be well on your way to optimizing your forms-driven lead generation.
The Why and When of Forms Testing
When it comes to more traditional web development, testing often comes towards the end of the SDLC. However, when forms and submissions start to enter one’s digital marketing mix, it’s beneficial to begin testing right from the start. Testing early – and knowing what kinds of tests to run – can prevent excessive design revisions, code mistakes, and loss of potential leads.
Once your final form choices are live and active, it then becomes important to smoke test your submissions process every few months, as well as regression test all forms after any new build or site code update. Whenever data is being captured and/or transferred, there is always the potential for issues to arise, and when new code gets added to a site as part of an upgrade or new project initiative, a regression test is always necessary to make sure the existing, untouched code still works accordingly. This includes making sure:
That the forms’ error validation still works
That the submitted data is getting captured accurately by whatever CRM vendor or backend system your company has chosen to use
That any automated user and/or admin emails are sending out on time and to the correct recipients
- That the messaging/design after submission still looks and behaves correctly on the front end of the website itself. Recurring smoke tests and post-build regression tests of all existing site forms are important quality assurance steps that should never be skipped when maintaining a lead generation website. However, when implementing new forms on a site for the very first time, there are other types of tests that are just as vital.
Simply put, A/B Testing is exactly what it sounds like: Testing A (a feature) against B (a second feature). A/B testing is a useful and easy way to test proposed changes or concepts against initial designs or concepts, in order to determine which ones will produce more positive results overall.
This is an extremely important type of testing when it comes to initial form designs. Consider this scenario: your company wants to implement short, four-field forms (First Name, Last Name, Zipcode, and Email Address) on every page of your main site, to encourage users to sign up for your digital newsletter so they can receive more information about what your company has to offer, as well as receive monthly promotions and services coupons (which will be region-based, thus the zipcode data capture). The end goal is to encourage more business as a whole, both on and off-site.
Deciding on the fields for the form was easy – you knew all you needed to capture was name, zipcode and email. But how are you actually going to get the most users to submit the form? It sounds easy in theory – only four fields? Psh, that’s nothing! – but the sad reality of the marketing world is that users are picky, skeptical, and often too lazy to bother.
After a day or so of internal meetings and deliberation, someone on your design team proposes a flashy red CTA (submit) button in place of the initially designed grey one. How do you know which one will end up driving more leads? By running an A/B test! For one month, the grey-button design will be released to the public via the live production site (this feature is called “the control”). Then, at the end of the month, the red button will be released (this feature is called “the variant”) for a second month. During both months, important data can be measured via marketing tools such as Google Analytics. You’ll be able to see which feature has a bigger effect on conversion rate.
Start an A/B test by identifying a goal. Then, determine which features on your form contribute to the successful completion of that goal. A/B testing can be extremely beneficial for automated email designs, banner image choices, landing pages, and much more!
Sometimes, there’s just not enough time, or a proposed design is too complicated, to A/B test single features, one after another. In such cases, multiple features need to be tested at once. Here’s where multivariate testing comes in. Multivariate testing is the process by which more than one feature or element of a website is tested in a live environment. A/B testing determines the better of two content/design choices; multivariate testing determines the effectiveness of various combinations of content/design choices.
The overall process of multivariate testing is the same as A/B testing, in the end: testing can be carried out on a dynamic website by setting up the server to display the different variations of content or features in equal proportions to incoming site visitors. Google Analytics, or another tracking program, can be utilized to see the statistics of how each visitor behaved on the site.
An example would be setting up several differently-designed form-types with variations in number of fields, button colors, and images/language used throughout the live production site, on a bunch of different pages. Maybe some pages get forms with red submit buttons, others with yellow submit buttons; some pages get forms with five fields, some pages get forms with three fields. By tracking the conversion rates for each form, as well as other important statistics, such as page views and clicks, it can be determined via multivariate testing which form was the most successful at driving in leads. Once this information has been determined, the site’s forms can be unified with the best design.
Automated Forms Testing: A Tester’s Best Friend
Large companies with a lot of services to offer often have websites with 20-40+ forms, when landing pages, contact us pages, and all site pages are accounted for. Not only that, but the form types often vary. There are three major form types to be aware of:
Static Forms: Simple forms that offer the same questions/information regardless of user type/other marketing techniques implemented on-site.
Progressive Forms: More complicated forms that allow for further eligibility of repeated visitors. For example, if you’ve already captured someone’s full name and email address the first time they filled out one of your lead generation forms, progressive profiling allows you to capture more information, such as address, the next time that same person completes a form on your site.
Multistage Forms: Questionnaires, applications – here we’re talking about those 20-50+ question forms with multiple dropdowns, checkboxes, and free entry text fields. These forms are often broken up into multiple steps/pages to make things more straightforward for the user, and to allow for at least SOME data capture, even if the user leaves in the middle of the submission process.
When a site has a mix of static, progressive, and multistage forms, not to mention multiple versions of each, regression testing during a code update or new build, for example, can quickly turn into a tedious and timely ordeal.
But fear not! Automated forms testing is here to save the day! By implementing an automation tool, you’ll be able to test forms twice as fast. A great example of a useful submissions testing tool is Selenium IDE – an easy and totally free tool that can record test cases and play them back in real time whenever you need! (The only caveat being that is can only be used with Firefox – but hey, at least it’s not an IE-exclusive!) You can actually read more about how Selenium has made my life as a Quality Analyst SO much easier by checking out my other article Save Time Testing Submissions with Selenium IDE.
The Recipe for Success
Now that you know just how important forms testing is when it comes to lead generation, it’s time to get out there and test some forms! Whether you’re a designer of forms, a marketer strategizing various plans of advertising attack, a manager of a web development team, or a quality assurance analyst, understanding the importance of forms testing can help an entire company’s lead generation goals go from mediocre to majestic!
What kinds of forms does your company’s website employ to drive lead generation? As a user, are there form types you love? Types you hate? What’s your favorite button color? Share with us in the comments section below, and don’t forget to connect with Delphic on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!