Creating Smart Order Forms

Written by Chris Lucas on May 20, 2009

Posted in Form Hacks

Today’s post in our “Online Forms That Convert” series is from James Paden of Xemion. More information about James can be found at the bottom of this post.

When creating online order forms, whether for a large corporation, a small business or a non-profit, there are three questions your visitors will always ask:

  • Why should I order?
  • What negative things might happen if I order?
  • How do I order?

Note carefully the order of these questions.  These are the same order your visitors will ask these questions.

For the most part, your actual form does not directly answer any of these questions.  But make no mistake, if you fail to answer any of these three questions, you will dramatically decrease the effectiveness of your order form and you will lose sales.

Why should I order?

This is often the easiest question to answer.  This question should be answered by the sales and product information on your website.  Too often, however, businesses fail to provide this information.   If your website features a banner that says “Buy Widget X” or “Request a Demo”, explain why I should buy widget X or why a demo would be beneficial.  Your order form should not be the first element on your sales page, your product information should be.  Include photos if applicable and a detailed description of what you are selling.

What negative things might happen if I order?

Fear halts more e-commerce orders than any other factor except lack of product information.  What if it breaks?  What if I don’t like it?  When will my package arrive?  What if it never arrives?  Can I trust this company?  Will my information be secure?

Before visitors ever reach your order form, you need to eliminate these worries by adding credibility indicators and providing additional assurances.  Here’s just a few of the non-form elements you can add to your page to reduce your customers fears:

  • Security Seals & BBB Seals
  • Testimonials & Customer Reviews
  • Shipping & Returns Information
  • Alternative Payment Methods (Formstack lets you do this!)
  • Phone Number & Contact Information
  • Privacy Policy
  • Satisfaction & Quality Guarantees
  • Product/Service Video
  • Live Chat

Each of these elements has been proven to increase the conversion rate and effectiveness of e-commerce websites.  That does not mean they’re effective for every site, but they’re definitely worth trying.  Consider the list of questions at the beginning of this section. What worries and fears are you not addressing before visitors reach your order form?

How do I order?

Another simple question, but again, many businesses fail to answer it.  It should be 100% obvious what the next step is to purchase a product.  There should be a nice-sized “Order” button that contrasts with the rest of the page.  Never link to your order form merely with a text link, especially one that’s hidden in the middle of a paragraph.

Your actual form should be laid out professionally with clear directions and steps.  This part should be particularly easy because Formstack does this so well.   The number one usability rule is “don’t make me think”.  If a user ever has to ask “how do I order?” or “what do I do next?”, you have a problem.

In summary, to create a smart order form, one that converts visitors into customers or donors, you must effectively answer each of the three questions.

jamespadennew5James Paden runs the Xemion Web Designer Directory and has over nine years of experience in web design and e-commerce. In addition to running Xemion, he serves as the Directory of Technology for an Indianapolis e-commerce network and consults with e-commerce companies on boosting conversion rates. Whenever working on a website, James focuses on using design and technology to achieve the business’ goals.