A website is an important part of any marketing platform; it's a robust one-stop-shop that you control to communicate your branding, culture, and key information. It's also a powerful marketing tool that can be used to collect valuable information from an already captive audience that's engaging with your school's site.
One way you can collect this information is with online forms. With forms, you can generate leads, solicit donations, and simplify life.
Forms can be easily added to a site, and the efficiency they offer is priceless. They can:
- Help to reduce incoming calls and emails
- Create consistency and accuracy of the information collected, aiding in organization
- Centralize data in an aggregated, easy-to-access location
- Streamline your overall processes
While easy to implement, forms still require a good amount of forethought. Follow these eight tips to ensure your school's forms are encouraging users to convert — AKA, inquire, apply, or give:
1. Make it accessible.
It's amazing how many schools make their users search for the "Inquire" or "donate" buttons on their site.
The access points to the most important conversion forms on your site should be prominent, available on every page a user might visit.
In general, you have two different types of site visitors: those who know what they want to do when they get to your site, and those who are just perusing.
For the users who already know what they are looking for, you shouldn't make them dig around for it because they will become frustrated and lose interest.
For users who are just browsing (as most are) you should make it easy to learn more about your offerings by providing the option to 'Inquire' once they are sufficiently compelled to take action.
By adding Inquire or Donate buttons to your navigation — either your main menu, footer, or the functional navigation —they are universally displayed at all times for easy access.
For example, Trinity Preparatory School in Florida consistently uses their footer as a place to dock the calls to action: Inquire, Apply, and Give.
2. Create a clear call to action that leads to your form.
Calls to action give site visitors direction, and you want yours to stand out from the rest of your site. Use bold colors or unique fonts to draw attention. This is one element on your site that you don't want users to overlook, so make sure these essential site items pop.
A great example are these interactive calls to action at the bottom of The Episcopal Academy's homepage. When you hover over each CTA, there is a cool circular ripple effect.
3. Keep it one click away.
When a user clicks a call to action, make sure they get to the page or form they wanted immediately upon clicking. Do not try to feed them more information and force them to click further. They might lose interest.
4. Style it.
It's true: appearance matters, even when it comes to web forms.
You want your form to be simple, neat, and styled so that it fits the look and feel of your site. Use consistent fonts and color treatments to create a visual appealing, non-intimidating user experience. Consider putting the form labels inside the form fields for a better user of space and to keep the form clean.
Woodward Academy's online giving form is a great example of a beautifully styled form. By incorporating the school's fonts and colors, the form exhibits a simple and clean interface — making donations easy.
5. Keep it short...but not too short.
It's a known fact that fewer form fields lead to a higher conversion rate, but you also don't want to miss out on obtaining key information.
If you want to capture qualified prospective students, you will need to collect more detailed information to better address these users with follow up communication. A good balance is to get more than just the basic contact information but don't go overboard with trying to gather too much personal information.
For example, Trinity Prep offers a short inquiry form and a longer inquiry form to target two different types of site visitors — low committal and high committal.
6. Make it mobile-friendly.
While mobile responsiveness is a standard site feature at Finalsite (and vital for your website in general), you'll want to be sure to still test your forms. All forms on your site, including simple student logins, should be tested on various mobile devices to ensure they are providing the best mobile experience.
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7. Sync it with your CMS, SIS, or online admissions software.
There's no point in collecting all these great leads if they're not integrated with your content management system, student information system, or online admissions software. This way, you can segment future communications by location, interest, enrollment year, etc — simplifying the work on your end, while personalizing the process on their end.
8. Make it Secure.
If you are collecting monetary donations through a form, make sure your users know that it will be a secure transaction. Referencing your adherence to security standards will help solidify your donation.
How can you compile all these tips to create a truly effective independent school form?
Let's take a look at the forms on Purnell School's Best in Class site. They have an Inquire and Give buttons universally displayed within their navigation but not part of the main menu, which stand out with colors and a special icon treatment.
When you click Inquire you are taken immediately to a pop-up form that is neat, clean and perfectly concise — it doesn't even require you to leave the page you're on!
And, when you click the Give button you are taken to a simple, secure form that is the focal point of the page.
Well done, Purnell.
Once you have your forms in place, it's important to evaluate how they are performing. Are users completing them or dropping off before hitting submit? Use Google Analytics to follow the activity from the beginning to the end of every site visitor's journey to understand potential hurdles in the user path.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Danielle has over 10 years of digital marketing experience including positions at Advertising.com/AOL, Weber Shandwick and 906 Creative. She holds a B.A. from Colgate University and an M.B.A from the University of Maryland and currently resides in Maryland with her husband and two children.