The Lazy Man’s Guide to Autoresponders

Businesses send emails to their users on a daily basis. It’s simply the way of life in the digital age. But most email marketers aren’t taking full advantage when it comes to using emails to generate leads.

Marketing expert Chris Hexton of Vero says, “About 75% of businesses are missing out on the email marketing sweet spot.” He notes that while newsletters have an open rate around 20%, transactional emails – or trigger-based welcome emails – have an open rate of around 50% and are over 100% more effective when it comes to open rates, click-through rates, and conversions.

So how do you take advantage of this sweet spot, exactly? You use autoresponders, of course.

Don’t miss: 6 Examples of Highly Effective Autoresponders

What Are They and What Can They Do?

An autoresponder is a sequence of trigger-based emails sent to subscribers at different predetermined intervals. There are typically a few different creative ways to use an autoresponder to generate leads or promote your products or services. These can include (but are not limited to):

  1. Mini-Course or Welcome Course – This is a series of emails that teach your subscribers about a certain aspect of your industry or more about your specific product or service.
  2. Paid Course – Similar to the mini-course, this is a more in-depth series that informs subscribers about a technical aspect of your industry, product or service.
  3. Content Promotion – This is a series of emails that introduce subscribers to important content you’ve already produced or are currently producing on your blog or media channels.
  4. Affiliate Promotions – This is a way to promote affiliate products and promotions, and can be helpful for cross-promoting and upselling your own content, product, or services as well.
  5. Demos and Social Proof – This is a series of emails that help your current subscribers see the benefits of your product or service on an ongoing basis.
  6. Newsletters – This is another source of automated content that can inform or educate your subscribers in addition to a blog or mini-course.

What’s nice about autoresponders is that you can take your audience through a sequence of emails without doing any work, since you’ve already written the emails beforehand. As you can tell, there are plenty of creative uses for autoresponders, depending on your audience and needs.

But which type (or types) of autoresponders will work best for your business? Well, that will depend on the benefits you want to get out of them.

How to Choose the Right Autoresponder Type

The main goal of an autoresponder is to move users deeper into your sales funnel. But before you create a single email, you have to understand your end goal.

If you simply want to sell products or services, you’ll probably have a different approach to autoresponders than someone who wants to create brand loyalty or be seen as experts.

Do you want to sell a product or a service? A welcome course, an affiliate course, or a series of demos and social proof may be your best option to help newcomers understand the benefits of using your business.

Do you want to establish a long-term relationship? Consider creating a content series for blog posts or establishing a great mini-course that helps subscribers stay connected to your business.

Do you want to be seen as an industry authority? Consider doing a paid course including valuable industry information to show off your expert status.

If you want to do all three, you certainly can. There’s really no limit to the ways you can use autoresponders. The only thing stopping you is, you know, actually creating them.

So how do you quickly and easily create your autoresponder series without spending too much time and energy? Well, here’s what you need to know.

Quickly Create Effective Autoresponders

There are plenty of email marketing companies out there that will more than happily help you create your autoresponders, such as MailChimp, AWeber, Active Campaign, and more. But even if you have a marketing company doing the actual sending, you’ll still need to actually create the autoresponder content and design.

Here are a few tips and tricks to creating effective autoresponders in no time.

Start With a Strong Editorial Calendar

Having an outline of your course and/or a well thought-out editorial calendar is the key to success. Start by planning how many autoresponder emails you want in your series (three to six emails is a good guideline) and then create an outline of each email including subject lines and descriptions.

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AWeber provides several editorial calendar templates and outlines you can use to help you through the process, or if you really want most of the work done for you, check out Dusti Arab’s six-week autoresponder template.

Set a Balanced Schedule

You’ll want to set a schedule for your autoresponders that is both effective (as in, there’s enough emails being sent to actually get a high click-through rate) without being overwhelming for your subscribers.

Mini-courses and welcome courses are often sent on consecutive days over the course of a week, or sometimes once a week for a certain period of time (usually no more than six weeks).

Other types of autoresponders can be tailored to the needs of your audience, but generally speaking, once or twice per week or once per month is probably enough for most people. Just be sure to track your open rates and unsubscribe numbers to ensure that your audience isn’t overloaded.

Choose the Right Subject Lines

The subject lines of your emails are extremely important when it comes to open rates, so you’ll want to start by coming up with some good ones. The folks over at Creative Live have some tips, including:

  1. Make a Promise: “You’ll Double Your Blog Readership with These 10 Tips.”
  2. Highlight a Benefit: “Learn to Write a Headline Your Twitter Followers Actually Click.”
  3. Appeal to Your Reader’s Emotions: “Why I Gave Up Thousands of Blog Readers and Started Over.”
  4. Appeal to Your Reader’s Curiosity: “The Reason No One Comments on Your Blog Posts.”

Develop Great Content

If you already have blog content, half of your work is done for you. But if you’re starting from scratch – and you’re not a writer (or nobody in your business is a writer) – consider hiring a professional copywriter to produce materials for you. Nothing says, “We don’t know what we’re doing” like poorly written copy, so make sure the words you put out there reflect the high standards of your business.

But if you do plan on doing it yourself, Nathalie Lussier over at Ambitionally has a helpful content walkthrough for creating an effective series.

Include Social Proof and Credibility

Your audience wants to know that the information they receive from you is coming from experts and not amateurs. The key to an effective autoresponder is to include some type of social proof, like a testimony or personal story in every email to keep your audience connected to your business on a personal level.

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Optinmonster has some suggestions for choosing the most effective social proof.

Make Your Designs “Pop”

While your content is the star of the show, you don’t want to have people ignore your fabulous content because the email itself is ugly and hard to read. Jason Amunwa over at Digital Telepathy has some suggestions for developing beautifully designed HTML emails, including how to deal with certain types of images, text, and calls to action. Litmus also has some great tips, including utilizing a mobile-friendly layout and more.

Segment Your Email Lists

Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’re not sending your autoresponders to everyone on your subscribers list. Your goal should be to break up your email lists to target audiences that would most benefit from your content. Why? Well, according to Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.
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Having segmented email lists also means you can send out as many types of autoresponders as you want, essentially ensuring that your whole audience is moving down your sales funnel with minimal effort on your part. And if you’re looking to save as much time and energy as possible, minimal effort is a beautiful thing.

Don’t forget to check out our list of highly effective autoresponders!

Why You Might Want to Ditch Your CMS If You Have THIS Client

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: “Can you build me a website?”

If you’re a web developer or designer, at some point in your career you’ve probably been asked to build someone a website, whether it’s a high-paying client or your mom’s neighbor from down the street. If you can build it, they will come.

The go-to solution to building said website is usually to choose whichever CMS you’re most comfortable with – WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. – and start building from there. After all, that’s what CMS is designed for: building websites with ease.

But, depending on whom you’re building the site for, a CMS may not actually be the best choice. In fact, depending on the client’s needs, you may want to consider building a static site instead.

Don’t Miss – Quiz: Should Your Client Use a Static Site or CMS?

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SSG vs. CMS

CMS platforms, like WordPress and Joomla, are popular for a reason: they’re multi-media friendly, SEO-friendly, and most importantly, contributor-friendly, at least for the non-technical folks out there.

But, static sites have many benefits that a CMS can’t offer, especially for devs and designers, like lower development costs, simpler hosting, greater security and markdown support.

The best part about static sites is that you can use a static site generator, such as Jekyll, to help you manage your site – which is similar to using a CMS but with more access to the code – but you can also build a static site on your own using a handful of HTML files, too. This, along with the other benefits, makes static sites a great alternative to using a CMS, especially for devs and designers.

Static sites may also be helpful for certain clients, too, depending on their needs…

Which Client for Which Method?

At the end of the day, building a website isn’t really about what you want, it’s about what the client wants. Unfortunately, clients don’t always know what they want, or sometimes what they want isn’t the best option. That’s why it’s important to know which clients might benefit most from a static site and which should probably stick to using CMS sites.

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Clients that Benefit from Static Sites

Here are the types of clients that should probably let you build a static site for them:

They’ve put you in charge. If they want nothing to do with the website and are more than happy to pass off the management to you, then you might want to consider creating a static site. If they’re not messing around with the code, you might as well have full control. Nothing lets you do what you want easier than a static site, because you can hand-write anything you need directly into the text editor quickly and easily.

They don’t plan on updating the site often. Maybe they’re just using their website as a virtual business card, or they don’t have content that frequently changes. If this is the case, using a full blown CMS to build a simple, unchanging is a waste of time and energy. A static site will give them everything they need with less hassle on your end, especially if you do decide to use a generator.

They’re bloggers who know what they’re doing. Static sites are great for bloggers, even if the CMS (cough – WordPress – cough) holds a fair share of the blogging market when it comes to advertising. Static sites have less security issues and generally load much faster than CMS blogs, which makes them great for traffic. The only caveat is that the blogger must know how to work in a SSG, or at the very least know how to pass things off to you to get posted.

They’re have a limited budget. If they don’t have the money to spend on developing a fully hosted, fully CMS powered site, then a static site is seriously the best bet for saving them money. That also means that more of their money is going to you and not the CMS.

If your clients fall into any of these categories, consider switching them from a CMS to a static site and save yourself some hassle.

Clients that Benefit from CMS Sites

Of course, not all of your clients will fall into those categories, which means that you might want to stick with a CMS – or at the very least use a static site generator instead of hand-coding – if your client is like this:

They’re bloggers who don’t know what they’re doing. While there’s a big case for using static sites over CMS for blogging purposes, most bloggers are not expert-level developers and designers like you. If they want you to build the site but they plan on managing it afterwards, a CMS may be a better option since it gives non-technical people the upper hand.

They need a large site or blog with frequent updates. If the blog or website is large – like enterprise level with many pages and complex site structures – then a CMS will save you more time than having to code a static site. Plus, if you have to be in it making changes every day, you don’t want to dig around code, because there are CMS plugins for that.

They have a need for dynamic applications. If they really, really want “cool” features on their website like Disqus for comments or specialty plugins for different functionality, there’s probably no way to get around using a CMS.

They have the money, but not the time frame. Building a website is always going to be expensive (for a good website, anyway), and if they want something good, they should be able to pay for it. If budget is of no concern but they need a quick turnaround on a big site, then a CMS is probably a better option.

If your client falls into these categories, your best solution is probably to stick with a CMS, since they tend to be easier on non-devs and designers.

Still not sure which to use? Try our quiz: Should Your Client Use a Static Site or CMS?

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How to Suggest Static Sites to CMS Clients

So what happens if you’ve figured out that a static site will benefit your client more than a CMS, but your client absolutely insists on using something like WordPress, because it’s all they know? What’s the best way to suggest an alternate option?

Reassure the client that you’re after the same goal. They know their objectives better than you do, so make sure to listen and ask plenty of questions first before you start giving your opinion.

Speak like an expert. They’ve come to you for your expertise; don’t be afraid to speak with expert authority. Tell them that you’ve assessed their situation and their goals and you feel the best solution might be to use a static site. If they’re not sure what a static site is, explain it to them the best you can in non-technical terminology.

Present the benefits. People want solutions that help them move forward, so instead of arguing about why a static site is better than a CMS, tell them what makes static sites so great and how those solutions will help them achieve what they want. Especially tell them if using a static site will save them time and money.

Have a plan in place for building the site. People can be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true, so if you’re going to suggest a switch for their website, show them that you’ve really thought it through. Have a plan written down for timeframe, needs, requirements, and options for SSGs should they choose to use one. Show evidence of other static sites you’ve built with success, if possible.

Be professional. Above all, don’t start arguing with the client. Even if they know less than you about static sites, they’re still the ones in charge. If they decide to use a CMS, just work with it or point them to another dev or designer who can help.

12 Pre-Fill Tools You Can Use to Improve Form Conversions

If you’ve been on the Internet for any length of time, you’ve probably filled out a form.

It’s inevitable. Forms are everywhere – from online shopping, subscribing to blogs, and even logging in to your favorite sites. And if you’ve spent any amount of time filling out a form, you know that they are seriously tedious.

But that’s where you – the developer and/or designer extraordinaire – come in. Your job is not only to make those forms functional, but also to get users to actually want to fill them out.

One of the best ways to do that is by making forms as fast to finish as possible. Enter scene: pre-fill.

Also called autofill, this tool allows user information to be automatically populated on your form, so that users don’t have to waste time filling in standard details like name, email, or home address.

Pre-fill can also store more sensitive data like credit card information for quick checkout using e-commerce forms. While this can pose some inherent security risks, some users still prefer to have information at the ready for forms and other data-heavy processes.

Whether pre-fill is used simply for remembering names and emails or more complex personal data, it’s still a great way to help users have a little fun amidst the tedium.

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Don’t miss: 6 Pre-Fill Apps for Mobile

Pre-Fill and Conversions

Of course, more importantly than fun, pre-fill tools are also good for conversion rates.

Studies show that up to 86% of users will leave a page instantly when they’re required to fill out a form. Part of the reason for such a high number of abandonment is energy preservation; simply put, users don’t want to spent copious amounts of time filling out forms.

One study actually tested the effects of pre-fill on social media forms and found that conversions increased by 200% when businesses allowed forms to be autocompleted.

Basically, the less you ask users to do, the more inclined they’ll be to fill out your form.

Pros and Cons of Pre-Fill

However, as we mentioned earlier, all of that hassle-free, conversion-boosting fun doesn’t come without its own set of risks. Here are a few pros and cons of using pre-fill features in your forms.

Pro: Browsers can be programmed to store information for quickest time filling out forms, which can improve conversion rates.

Con: Some browsers can be buggy, and often put the wrong data in the wrong fields. When that happens, users have to perform an extra step to delete the wrong data in order to put in the correct data. If you thought an 86% abandonment rate was bad before, then you’ll definitely want to run multi-browser testing before implementing pre-fill.

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Pro: Pre-fill can save passwords for quick login, saving time having to fill in form data every time a frequent user returns to your site.

Con: Pre-fill saves passwords, making them less protected (unless users have tools like LastPass).

Pro: Address validation can be a big plus for forms with pre-fill enabled, like e-commerce sites (think Amazon). This is especially helpful for users who might not remember their postcodes, because the validation tools fill those fields in automatically. Other features like geolocation can be helpful both for e-commerce and other sites that require a location.

Con: Address validation might be buggy and input the wrong information (see above).

Pro: Search engines often use pre-fill to allow users to select the most popular searches, and shoppers who use internal search are six times more likely to convert.

Con: The quality of search results affects a searcher’s ability to find what they want, so unless the pre-fill does a great job of finding results, it most likely will have minimal effect on search.

There are many different ways to apply pre-fill to forms to achieve the desired effect, but the biggest concerns to watch out for include safety concerns for saved passwords and buggy browsers that input the wrong data. So if you’re going to use pre-fill, make sure you’ve tested on multiple browsers and that you have a protection system in place for keeping passwords secure.

Another important thing to keep in mind when it comes to pre-fill tools is that they aren’t naturally accessible for many users, especially those using mobile or older browsers that don’t have extensions to help autocomplete their forms.

Pre-Fill Tools

But let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why you’re actually here. If and when you do decide that there are more pros for your users than cons, here are a few ways you can incorporate pre-fill tools into your forms.

HTML Form Autocomplete

This pre-fill attribute can be incorporated into your form’s code to trigger a browser’s natural autocomplete function. Just make sure to do some extensive cross-browser testing to ensure your forms work across multiple platforms.

Form Filler

This is an extension for Chrome that lets you fill in forms with dummy data. While not useful to your users, it will help developers test form functions and pre-fill features without having to go live first.

Form Auto-Completion Tool

GitHub has another tool for inputting dummy data quickly for testing purposes. According to the website, you can run this simple JS code by using Scratchpad or in a console.

Google Developer’s Autofill

This site will help developers implement Google’s Autofill add on for Chrome. It has a set of autocomplete attributes to help control how the browser will populate data for your users. They also have an autofill feature for Firefox, too.

Other Chrome Pre-Fill Add-Ons

Besides Google’s Autofill extension, there are several other browser add-ons you can use that are designed specifically for Chrome:

Don’t forget to checkout our list of 6 Pre-Fill Apps for Mobile!

Final Thoughts

Pre-fill tools can be a great feature to add to forms in order to help users actually fill them out. Some of the places they can be particularly helpful include e-commerce forms or those that require a user to constantly login, like social media or membership sites.

One of the primary concerns surrounding pre-fill is the need for security, so you’ll want to make sure any browser extensions are encrypted and that passwords are stored securely using appropriate password management software.

You’ll also want to test any pre-fill forms in multiple browsers to prevent bugs, but you can use tools like Form Filler to populate dummy information for easy testing.

But don’t forget that pre-fill has the potential to significantly increase conversions and help users follow through on registering for accounts, events, and more.

The Quickest Ways to Modify and Optimize Your WordPress Themes

Do you remember the good old days when creating a website meant spending countless hours coding everything from scratch? Of course not, because you’re a WordPress developer, which means you have access to themes.

The great thing about themes is that they come pre-packaged with thousands of lines of code someone else spent time developing, which is truly life saving when it comes to time management. The downside to themes, however, is that someone else created them, so if the theme doesn’t match up with all of your needs, you’re going to have to put in a little extra work.

But the great thing about WP is that you don’t have to sacrifice your precious time to customize and optimize those themes. In fact, depending on your needs, there are several quick ways to make sure your theme has everything you need.

Don’t miss: Theme Optimization Checklist for WP Developers

Pre-Optimization Cleanup

Before you really get into the nitty-gritty of optimizing your WP site, you can save quite a bit of time by going through your out-of-the-box theme and cleaning it up. (Actually, you can do this at any time of the process, but it’s arguably more helpful before you start working on a new theme).

Clean Up Messy Code

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Developers and programmers have a reputation of using messy code. But, to be fair, they often have a lot to do in a short period of time, and going back through hundreds of lines of code isn’t always on the agenda. It’s a “code first, ask questions later” sort of approach, which saves time but isn’t always the most productive in the long run.

Messy code in your theme can make it harder once it’s time to modify major sections of the site. Messy code can be anything from mixed coding styles, spaghetti code that can only be understood by the original creator, or unextendable code that just doesn’t play well with others.

Some things to look for when it comes to cleaning up code – even in a fairly clean, freshly downloaded theme – include hiding unnecessary or unused shortcodes (the good news is there’s a plugin for that), unwanted media (another plugin), and underused tags (did we mention there’s a plugin?). You can find more easy ways to cleanup areas of your theme at wpmudev, too.

You should also continue cleaning up your code as you go along, especially if you’re one to leave yourself comments or pieces of code that you plan to come back to later (but eventually forget about). At some point you should revisit your style.css file in your Theme folder and do some stylesheet housekeeping.

Ongoing Optimizations

Of course, once you start getting into heavier modifications to the site, you will inevitably wind up with more stuff than you really need on your site’s backend. All of the clutter can really bog down your overall speed, so the best way to optimize your theme is to get rid of all the extra stuff that came with it (or that you added).

Hide and Remove

A few immediate things you’ll want to remove include unused plugins. While you’re bound to keep a few around for functionality (and to clean up your code, don’t forget), there are just some plugins that you will have test driven with unsuccessful results. Ditch them as soon as possible.

Like we mentioned above, you’ll also want to remove any code (shortcodes, tags, etc.) that doesn’t add value to your site. You can use plugins to take care of them quickly. But you should also consider removing things like certain elements from your headers and even old themes that you’re keeping around “just because.”

In terms of usability, you can also hide parts of the dashboard or the visual text editor to give yourself a more seamless coding experience. Basically, if you don’t really need it, find a way to get rid of it. For things that build up over time like new code or plugins, like your mom used to say – if you’re done using it, put it away.

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Source: WP-Optimize

Optimize Images

Images are a major part of your site, and not to beat a dead horse, but they’re important to your usability. But WP doesn’t always optimize images as well as it should.

For example, WP often adds layers of compression to their images. So, if you’re using the internal image editor to crop or edit a picture, the resulting image will be saved multiple times. Those images will also include their own attachment pages that quickly eat up space on the server if your site is image heavy.

One way to optimize is to pre-compress and crop images (using free tools) before you upload them. You’ll be saving yourself time later on when you’re trying to figure out why your site isn’t running as quickly as it should.

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Source: TinyPNG

Matteo Spinelli’s Cubiq.org blog also has some suggestions for practically handling images and removing attachment pages, among other things. And don’t forget that there are plugins that can help with a variety of optimization needs to save time.

Backup and Upgrade

Of course, one of the most absolutely essential components to optimization is backing up all of your data as you go, and then cleaning it up periodically as extra data piles up.

Again, there are plugins that can help you backup your database with little to no effort on your end.

Your database will also accumulate unnecessary data over time from things like revisions, spam comments, or even data from plugins that you’ve removed. All of this data can really bog down your site, so after you’ve made a backup, consider using plugins like WP-Sweep or WP-Optimize to remove the excess.

And you should always make sure that your site is running the latest versions of your theme as well as your plugins. You can easily update each from your dashboard, so that’s a no brainer.

Be sure to check out our Theme Optimization Checklist for WP Developers!

Ongoing Modifications

Finally, at some point you will probably need to make some larger tweaks to your site. If you’re working with a child theme in particular, you’ll probably end up creating additional styles and hooks. While all of that will still take time and energy, there are ways you can optimize to keep your expenditure at a minimal level.

Customization

There are generally two types of developers: one that likes to code everything by hand and one that likes to use editors and plugins to help. If you’re of the latter persuasion, you can always use WP’s built-in customizer API to give you a visual representation of the changes you’re making.

Before you go saying, “Well, duh!” you should know that there’s also a tool available that will help you take advantage of the customizer’s advanced features. Last year Redux and Kirki combined forces to create a framework that works fully in the customizer, giving you much more bang for your buck.

And if you still want to hand code, you can always use plugins like Simple Customize or Simple CSS to aide in your endeavor.

Switching Themes

Of course, there may come a time when your site is ready to move to an entirely new theme, which is a hefty task, but it doesn’t have to take as much time as you think.

Using plugins like All-in-One Migration or Duplicate, you can fully export/import your database, media files, plugins, and theme options. If you don’t mind paid options, you can also go with something like WordPress Theme Switcher.

But whatever method you choose, just make sure to follow all of the above tips by backing up your site, making sure there’s nothing miscellaneous in your code, keeping your images optimized, and using the right plugins to assist the job (and getting rid of the ones that don’t).

How to Build Efficient E-Commerce Checkout Forms

Forms come in many shapes and sizes, from the basic lead generation form that asks for a name and an email all the way to those pesky multi-step forms that will essentially require your entire life’s history to complete.

But somewhere in the middle is the e-commerce checkout form, which is a unique animal unto itself. But what makes it so special?

Don’t miss: 7 Examples of Truly Inspirational E-Commerce Forms

Checkout Forms vs. Standard Forms

Well, for starters, checkout forms carry a bit more weight than standard forms, mainly because they need to process payments and fees. A standard form, on the other hand, is typically there to gather information, usually in the form of a name and email and not much else.

This means that checkout forms come with their own set of challenges. Some of those challenges include:

Calculating Payments

Your checkout form will undoubtedly pull a price from somewhere, and usually it’s a shopping cart. Even if your form is a simple one for processing a single payment (like downloading an e-book or a single product), there’s still payment involved, which means that your form has some calculating to do above and beyond a traditional form.

Even after calculating the price of the shopping cart items, your form will also need to calculate shipping costs (which can fluctuate based on a variety of factors) as well as any applicable taxes associated with the products. And you’ll need to make sure that you’re processing all payments through a secure gateway, which is another thing that you never have to worry about with standard forms.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

One other big factor when it comes to checkout forms is follow-through. Because most people who subscribe using standard forms are only asked for basic information, the follow-through rate is usually pretty high. But this isn’t always the case for e-commerce checkout forms. In fact, the average shopping cart abandonment rate – or the rate at which people don’t finish their purchase – is at a staggering 68%. That means 1 in 4 people will not finish using your checkout form.

The reason why people aren’t finishing their purchases is surprising: it’s about transparency. Customers often complain that they have little to no information about the purchase during the checkout process, including shipping fees and estimated delivery dates. Also on the list? Usability.

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Basically, if a form isn’t upfront about the costs associated with the purchase, or the form itself is confusing and hard to use, people won’t bother filling it out. It’s those extra things that make a checkout form that much more harrowing for a designer or storeowner than a standard form could ever be.

So what’s the best way to overcome these challenges and create an efficient checkout form that customers will actually follow through on using?

Checkout Form Best Practices

To make sure that your users actually fill out your checkout forms, you’ll need to follow some best practices when designing them. Here’s a general rundown of things to include to make sure your forms are as efficient as possible.

Be Transparent

Like we said before, the number one reason people won’t use your form is a lack of transparency when it comes to prices. People want to see what’s in their cart, what their total cost will be (including shipping and handling), and when they can expect their product to arrive. Even if they’re ordering a digital download, you should still be upfront about when they can expect their download to be available.

Take a page from SodaStream’s book and include as much information as possible on your form’s landing page, even if you have to use multiple steps to do it (be sure to show the summary at the final step).

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Don’t Force Registration

One surprising reason why people may skip filling out your checkout form altogether is being forced to register for an account in order to purchase something. When it comes to usability, forced registration is actually a top complaint.

While accounts are a benefit to anyone ordering – they make tracking packages and reordering easier, for one – they can turn people off if they’re mandatory. The best way to handle accounts it is to give your customers the option to setup an account (or save the information they’ve already inputted) after the checkout process is complete.

Make Your Form Fields Clear

While it may seem like common sense that people would know what to input into any given field, you would be surprised how often the wrong information ends up in the wrong place. To improve usability, try to make your form fields as clear as possible by including microcopy – little pieces of text that give instruction – above or below your form fields to eliminate any doubt.

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Include Fewer Fields Where Possible

The age-old adage “less is more” holds true here. Because checkout forms already ask for so much sensitive information, it’s important that you only ask for the things you absolutely need. Of course, this information will be more than a standard form because you’ll need things like shipping and billing address, but make sure that you’re only asking for information that helps verify a purchase so that users can get through it quickly.

Use Visual Cues

Because checkout forms are typically longer than lead generating forms, they will probably come in multiple steps, which can be confusing for many users, especially if your customer base skews toward the older generation. The more visual cues you can give – big, bold, colorful buttons, arrows, bullet points, or even small images – will go a long way to helping customers get through the process with minimal effort.

Use Progress Indicators for Long Forms

Speaking of multiple steps, the best thing you can possibly do for your long checkout forms is to include a progress indicator showing exactly which step the user is at in any given moment. If you’re able, you should also include a “save” feature so that customers can come back at any point in the process. Not only is this great for usability, but being able to come back to a purchase without having to do extra work is a great incentive for fulfilling purchases (and counteracting that pesky abandoned cart).

Include Trust Symbols

Finally, one of the most important things you absolutely must include in your checkout form is a symbol (or symbols) of trust. Trust symbols show that the user’s information is safe from hackers and that they can rest easy knowing that you’re not spreading their credit card information to spammers. If you skip anything else on this list, don’t let it be this!

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Final Thoughts

Checkout forms may be a bit more complicated than standard lead generation forms, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as user friendly.

When designing or including these forms on your site, make sure to focus on elements like transparency and usability to eliminate the chance of abandoned carts.

Be sure to include only what’s necessary, and use visual elements like progress indicators, arrows, or images to guide your users through long forms.

And whatever you do, include trust symbols that show the user that their financial safety is your first priority.

Need a little inspiration? Check out our 7 Examples of Truly Inspirational E-Commerce Forms