Designing Lead Generation Forms that Convert

March 26, 2014
Apple keyboard and screen

Let’s say a prospective customer visits your website, likes what they see and decides to contact you. When we step into the shoes of that visitor, we can recognize the need for a very short contact form that, with minimal input, will result in the delivery of a quick, helpful response that is relevant to their specific needs. The easier it is to fill out that form, the more likely our visitor is to complete it. And if we can at least secure an email address, we can start nurturing the lead.

As the business being contacted, we know that we can provide a better response with more information. Incidentally, the sales team will not be impressed if we send them poorly qualified leads! More information about the lead helps our sales team prioritize work and close more deals.

A contact form has two jobs. It has to balance a user-friendly design to increase the lead conversion rate, and it has to collect as much data as possible. In this post, we’re focusing on user-friendly design. If you want to learn more about the data collection side, check out our other post: Designing Smarter Lead Generation Forms

A lot of businesses prioritize either the experience or the data collection, but you don’t have to pick a favorite. You can have both! Try combining the ideas across these two posts, and run some a/b testing to figure out what balance delivers the highest value for your business.

Tips for Optimizing Your Lead Form Design:

-Make it really easy to fill out. Think brief & intuitive.

-Minimize required fields.

-Validate the data in each field, rather than after form submit.

-Give examples of validation requirements, so people don’t have to guess what format you want the phone number to be entered in, for example.

-Use the copy to succinctly state the purpose of the form, and what visitors should expect upon submitting.

-Don’t forget – the form should reinforce your branding, not represent a sudden, personality-free departure from the rest of your site experience and messaging.


Example of bad lead form design:


Sorry, Cloudera, but we had to call this out. For such a forward-thinking company, Cloudera uses a pretty dated lead form design. They’re obviously selling solutions that require high consideration, which no doubt that keeps their sales team busy.  They want a lot of information from the form so the team can be more effective in their outreach. That said, Cloudera could very likely increase the amount of leads by minimizing required fields and introducing in-field validation.  Their brand also has a great tagline, ‘Ask Bigger Questions.’ The form could be a lot more engaging if it used the copy to play off this tagline.

Example of great lead form design:

Form Design Example

ThreatStream is an up-and-coming SaaS cybersecurity startup that just so happens to have been started by two ex-Cloudera execs. They’re clearly taking a different approach when it comes to the design of their website. The ThreatStream form is sweetly simple. There are a handful of fields, and it doesn’t even require visitors to fill out all of them. The form tucks into the rest of the ‘Contact’ page neatly, and the page reinforces the impression that this is a cutting-edge company.

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