Web forms – how to secure their success
The importance of web forms as online communication tools cannot be overstated. They are a crucial way for organisations to capture data and start engagements. An effective web form helps ensure the success of a company’s website and enhance the experience of any online visitor. It’s therefore worrying to see so many businesses continuing to use ineffective web forms.
The necessary evil
Website visitors often view web forms as a ‘necessary evil’ and a barrier preventing them from obtaining the information or interaction they require. Therefore, it is critical to make the web form process as easy as possible in order to enhance the customer experience. After all, if a consumer has a choice of websites, why wouldn’t they engage with the easiest to navigate?
Although a lengthy form can drive away custom, especially with goliaths such as Amazon offering one click purchases, it’s not just the retail industry which needs to worry about its web forms. Businesses of all types need to ensure their communication platforms are as user-friendly as possible.
Job applications are a perfect example of this, with many businesses requesting prospective employees to fill out a job history web form before asking them to also upload a CV. Although businesses need to be thorough, forcing applicants to duplicate information is the definition of an inefficient system.
Time to make a change
To help overcome the negative perception of web forms and to ensure they are well constructed Gavin Harris, senior user experience consultant from Box UK, recommends five tips to improve the User Experience (UX) of web forms. These processes will significantly boost any organisation’s conversion rate.
The five tips are as follows:
· Justify the inclusion of each form field – keep forms as short as possible by only including input fields that are absolutely necessary. Nothing will put off consumers from completing a form more than having to spend excessive amounts of time doing so. Studies have confirmed a strong correlation between fewer questions and higher form completion rates and this must be taken into consideration, especially for those forms which automatically refresh after a set amount of time and wipe any previous data.
· Tailor your forms with progressive disclosure – As longer forms are proven to deter consumers, a simple method to shorten them is progressive disclosure. This approach ensures consumers are only asked questions when they become necessary in order to keep the person’s attention. For example, if you’re donating money to a charity but wish to remain anonymous, it shouldn’t be necessary to input details such as a place of work and job title.
· Consider the default form selections – To streamline the form process, its vital default selections are included, rather than leaving questions unnecessarily open ended. For example, rather than leaving a response open when asking which industry someone works in, offer a select number of options which summarise the likely responses. An ‘other’ option can be added which opens a text box for further information if required. Also ensure the default is selected after research not on gut feel. Look at your web statistics or your submission logs. Make sure a good majority select the default value.
· Support your users – Whether it’s 24/7 live messaging, call centres or simple guidance within the form itself, support is key to quality UX. A simple example is found within payment forms; where alongside almost all boxes requesting a CVC number, there will be a link to a page explaining exactly what this is. It may seem minor, but this could be the difference between securing a purchase and losing a customer who becomes frustrated with their experience.
· Stop using CAPTCHA tests – Studies have shown it takes a user an average of 28.4 seconds to pass a traditional CAPTCHA (a replication test that proves they are human and not a spam bot). Additionally, most people found them annoying – particularly elderly and visually impaired users.
Alternative methods of blocking spam bots have long been available. These include preventable tools which stop spammers delivering junk and in many cases from visiting the site in the first place, as well as honeypots that automatically detect comment and trackback spam and stop it from being published on the site.
Put the customer first
Web forms comprise of many different elements, therefore it is vital to ensure each is given due consideration as part of a well thought out design to avoid a confusing user experience.
Consider the purpose of the form first and the specific needs of the users and business, while remembering to make every effort to keep the user journey quick and straightforward in order to ensure a quality experience that they will want to repeat.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”