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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Simple Fill
- iMacros for Chrome
- Web Developer Form Filler
- Team Data
- YC Auto Form
- Simple Autofill
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.