Form UX – A little bit of form friction won’t hurt

Most marketers believe that the fewer the form fields you have, the higher your conversion rates will be. This is true as having a form that is easy and quick to fill in will certainly increase the number of prospects for your offer. However I believe more attention should be given on who you actually want to convert. Lead generation goals shouldn’t just be about getting leads but more about acquiring an ideal and highly qualified lead. At times you need to add in some extra friction to ensure that only the very best leads make it through your form.

What is form friction?

Friction by definition is the psychological resistance that your visitors experience when trying to complete an action. Friction is a conversion killer usually caused by unclear messaging, lack of information or poor layout. Form friction is the force that fights against you in the battle to get your visitors to complete your forms. There are two forms of form friction:

  • perceived friction
  • actual friction

Perceived friction

Perceived friction is the repulsion someone feels when they look at your form. It’s the feeling of “Oh my God, really? Do I have to fill in all of those form fields to get that? Perceived friction will stop people from interacting with you.

heck, it even has a part 2…

Actual friction

Actual friction is both the physical and emotional effort needed to fill in the form. The physical effort includes all the clicks, while the emotional efforts include all the tears. This friction occurs when there are questions that are either time consuming, difficult or impossible to answer. Open-ended questions are a form of physical frictions as they need more thought and time when compared to simple yes or no questions which are simpler. Dropdown lists are also major contributors to actual friction as they often do not include an appropriate answer. For example most forms online only have Edenvale or Modderfontein which are on either side of Greenstone Hill. What should I choose? DStv are also guilty of this – which Greenstone Hill should I pick here?


Captchas – those irritating scribbly letters you need to figure out to proceed – also present an unnecessary effort-based barrier. Yes they are great for preventing spam but at times (most of the time) at the expense of real decent leads. At times they are so complex that they immediately turn people away. Have a look at the one below…

what? There is no way you can prevail through these gates of hell. Nobody can read that!

To improve the simplicity of your captchas, Google recently updated their reCAPTCHA widget to simply ask people to check a box to show they’re not a robot. No need to squint your eyes figuring out room numbers or counting mountains and valleys

Though much simpler, it does comes with its own set of problems. Gary Robinson’s case study revealed how people ignored the reCAPTCHA because it looked like an opt-in checkbox. People were clicking the form Call To Action (CTA) without having checked the reCAPTCHA box, causing an error. This resulted in people clicking the CTA over and over again in frustration – and ultimately led to 73% fewer form completions.

As I mentioned earlier, at times you want to add in some friction to make sure you get the best leads possible. Here are good examples of intelligent use of form friction.

OUTsurance needs an ID for every lead and its a mandatory field in order to get a quote. This eliminates all the noise. RCS Loans uses the same concept as all clients need to have a valid South African ID.

Drain Surgeon forces you to state your problem first, which influences the quote in a major way. That would help qualify leads upfront though a lot of work is needed to optimize this form. For example I would knock out street address, postal address, replace the spam prevention with the Google reCAPTCHA I mentioned earlier.

So while friction has flaws – if used wisely it can help bring you more qualified leads.