Lead Form Optimization: How Simplifying a 3-Step Form Generated a 30% Conversion Lift


http://www.linkedin.com/in/michalaagaardLet’s face it – filling out forms sucks. Nobody really enjoys it. Nevertheless, a lot of people endure it because it’s the only way get to the good stuff “behind the form”. The easier and simpler you make the process of filling out your forms, the more conversions you are likely to get.

Here’s a case study where simplifying a 3-step lead gen form increased the completion rate by 30%. I made extensive changes to the form, and in this post we’ll go over all of them one by one. Check out the case study and use it as inspiration for your own experiments.


Client: Danish shipping service website (B2C and B2B) where you can get tailored offers from different carriers. Potential customers complete the form and within an hour or two they receive offers via email directly from the carriers.

Goal: Increase form completion rate and generate more leads.

Optimization hypothesis: By making the form easier to understand and interact with, we can simplify the experience, remove friction, and get more leads to complete the 3-step form.

Research question: Which variant will achieve the highest completion rate – the original or the new form?

Result: The new form increased form completion rate by 30%.

The original 3-step form

Original 3-step lead form


The new 3-step form

New 3-step lead form

Step One (description)

Lead form step 1

List of Changes on Step 1:

1. Top-aligned field labels to increase readability and scanning. In the original form, field labels were mostly left-aligned and in some cases top-aligned depending on the length of the field (meaning you had to scan both vertically and horizontally). Top-aligned labels are usually easier to read and scan as they provide better eye path.

2. Tweaked the field label copy so it’s more descriptive and easier to understand. Instead of just writing “Description”, I clarified a little and wrote, “Describe the goods you need to get shipped”, instead of “Total weight” I wrote “What is the total weight of the goods?”

3. Changed open text field to a drop down menu in connection with shipping weight. Carriers need total weight information in order to give the lead a realistic quote. Data showed that potential customers have trouble figuring out the total weight of their cargo. I chose a drop down menu with predefined weight intervals. This makes it easier for leads to chose the right weight interval – which in turn helps carriers with their quotes.

4. Added a big clear CTA button with contrasting color and relevant copy. The original button was a tiny grey thing that only said “Next”. The new button copy includes the “title” of the next step in the form in order to increase clarity and relevance.

5. Marked optional fields with (optional) – rather than marking all mandatory fields with *. Most fields are mandatory and in the original there were red asterisks all over the place. Labeling optional fields only makes the form appear less “crowded”.

Step 2 (pick-up and delivery):

Lead form step 2

List of Changes on Step 2:

1. Same changes as step 1 in regards to button (design/copy), field labels (alignment/copy) and mandatory fields.

2. Reduced total number of visible form fields from 22 to 6. The original form had an insane amount of labels on step 2. E.g. individual fields for both hours and minutes as well as individual fields for day, month and year. The main thing here was an exercise in “bundling” fields into single drop-downs with fixed intervals and an interactive calendar so you can simply click to choose dates.

Moreover, in the original form potential customers were forced to choose a date interval where pick-up could take place. However, research showed that most people need to get their stuff picked up on a specific date. Therefore it makes sense to offer them the option of selecting an interval – which in turn means that the second date field only shows if you chose an interval.

Step 3 (contact information)

Lead form step 3

List of Changes on Step 2:

 1. Same changes as step 1 and 2 in regards to button (design/copy), field labels (alignment/copy) and mandatory fields.

2. Reduced total number of fields from 6 to 4. The original form asked for zip code/city and address. However, this information is not necessary due to the fact that carriers only need information to contact the lead with a quote (name, phone, email, optional company name field).

3. Aligned fields two and two together next to each other so it’s possible to place all 4 fields on two lines. This makes step 3 easier to overview.

4. Button copy emphasizes the “pay off” of submitting the form – rather than the act of submitting itself. The direct translation of the CTA copy is: “Get free shipping quotes”

Header Changes (headline and step overview)

Lead form header changes

List of changes:

1. Headline. Direct translation of the original form headline is “Fill out form – it only takes a moment”. Direct translation of the new form headline “Get free, no-obligation shipping quotes”. I also added a sub-header that says, “Fill out the 3 steps and get 4 quotes via email directly from the carriers”.

This headline/sub-header setup makes it possible to present a value proposition to potential customers. Moreover it helps clarify what will happen after you fill out the form and submit it. In my experience telling your prospects what they’ll get and what will happen after they “convert” seems to increases both motivation.

2.  Step overview with titles. I added a step overview with titles for the individual steps in order to give potential customers a clear idea of what to expect throughout the process of filling out the form.

Results and Data

We could not run an A/B test between the two forms flows. So in this case we compared data from 90 days leading up the switch with data from 90 days after the switch was made. No other changes where made during the 180 day period and traffic remained consistent and we saw a lift across channels and traffic sources. A sample of 4510 conversions (completed lead forms) was the basis for these numbers.

Of course there is more bias involved when comparing periods instead of running an A/B test. Conversion rates vary from month to month and traffic and traffic sources can change as well. But let me show you some data that clearly indicates that the new form outperforms the old one.

Here’s the overall development in conversion rate for the website (not just the form completion rate). As you can see, conversions started going up when we implemented the form and has not dropped down to the previous level (good sign).

New lead form implemented

Here’s data for the relative difference in form completion rates (number of visitors who start on step 1 and complete the process).

Relative lift in completion rate

And here’s the completion rate for the individual steps in the new form.

New form completion rate

What’s Your Experience With Form Optimization?

If you want to share some insight from your own form optimization experiments, I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment.

Moreover I’m going to run a bunch of follow-up experiments, so if you have any interesting optimization hypotheses worth testing, please let me know and I might run a test based on your hypothesis!


  1. Hi Michael,

    Great article on form optimization. There’s a 32.6+% drop from step1 to step2, by improving the forms first step, will lead to a bigger lift in the overall conversion lift.

    Try a test with customers reviews/feedback/trusted seals/guaranties on the right side of the forms first step. Are the screenshots selections of the pages? can’t see anything else but the form fields, no other info.

    Who’s the carrier?

  2. Hi,
    Interesting test where you really combine many factors – but you say due to tecnical issues, it was not a traditionel a/b splittest and you had to run it differently.
    Is that the same tecnical issue which means we see realy no test of one page check out compared with check out in steps?
    Best regard

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Henrik,

      I haven’t tested a one step process for this particular site yet. I’m going to run several follow-up experiments, and a one-step process might end up being one of them.

      However, in relation to forms like this one where you need a lot of info, I usually see several steps convert better than a one-step process. In relation to checkout flows on e-commerce sites, I’ve performed several tests where e.g. a 3-step checkout has performed better than a one-step variant.

      In my experience it’s all about making the experience of completing the web form seem simple – depending on the amount of info you are asking and the level of complexity, several steps can make the process seem more simple.

      But tell me more about your experience testing one-step forms – it sounds like you have a lot of insight and data…

      – Michael

  3. Actually wanted to ask who’s the danish lead generation arbitrager.

  4. Never mind i found it..

  5. Nice post, Michael,

    Question. What were the conversion improvements for every step and form fields?

    Which form field was the conversion killer in the original form sequence?

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Gerard – thanks for the kind words!

      It was very difficult to get exact data for the individual fields on the original version of the form. It’s a long but sotry, but it had to do with the weird iframed form that they were using before. It meant that installing tools like clicktale or sessioncam and performing advanced form tracking was challenging and therefore not in the client’s budget. But the the qualitative data I got from e.g. user testing indicated that step 2 was the real big killer in this funnel sequence.

      The new form funnel has three separate steps on the website and I can now perform proper form tracking and turn it into deeper insight that I can use for my follow-up experiments. I’ll post more on these experiments further down the line.

      – Michael

  6. Your client uses Trustpilot to collect feedback, you could add their score widget to the first step, also add live support. Try and find why 30% of those who access the first step leave. With formissimo or some custom GA code can be tracked the completion of every field; do people leave the form through the top links or do they close the page?

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Bogdan, great idea with the TP testimonials!

      I’ve installed sessioncam on the site, so at the moment I’m gathering data for follow-up experiments.

      – Michael

  7. Hi Michael,
    I’m looking forward to see the results of your next experiments.



  8. Fantastic results. I’ve found similar results that having a sentence/question as a form label is more effective than one word labels on a short form.

    I am curious about the first step because it has the lowest completion rate.

    I believe the drop off is being caused by poor presell copy before the user comes to the form or perhaps it’s because of the complexity of this form field, “Describe the goods you need to get shipped.”

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hey dude – thanks for the excellent comment man!

      You’re touching upon something essential here. Advanced form tracking has shown that the form field where you have to describe your goods has the highest drop off in the entire funnel. So that one needs work.

      Great point about the presell copy – there’s definitely a lot that can be done on the home page (which is the step before you get into to form funnel).

      – Michael

  9. The control seems to be a wufoo form. Did you make a new form in Wufoo and edited the CSS or just implemented a whole other custom made form?

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Joop – thanks for the comment.

      The original form was built with Jotform, and the new one was custom built for the website.

      – Michael

  10. Hi,
    have just edited my formular because of your blog. Did you know, when i try to post something on your blog, as a comment, i write in all caps in name, email and website.

    Otherwise, great blog.

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Ulrik – Thanks for the comment man! Let me know how it goes with your form.

      Yes, that’s a form function built into my WP theme. I’ll see if I can tweak it.

      – Michael

  11. Great post Michael.

    It’s amazing to me how many online companies continue to give away revenue by having bloated completion forms. To get a prospect all the way through the funnel— only to lose them over unnecessary form fields—is sheer madness.

    Like Shock Marketer, I’m also interested in why step 1 (or steps that describe your goods) have the highest drop-off rate in the funnel. I’m wondering if making the presell copy (on the homepage) and the form copy in step 1 more relevant to one another would improve results.

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Angus – thanks for the comment and your kind words about the case study!

      I’ve just run a follow-up experiment where I removed the top navigation on the three steps of the form. I was surprised to see that after more than three weeks there really was no significant difference between the two variations.

      Now I’m going to get cracking on step 1. I’ve been running advanced field tracking and the very first field (the goods you need shipped) seems to be the one with the highest drop-off. So it might very likely have to do with the presell copy on the homepage or the field label. On the other hand it could simply be because people don’t know exactly what they need shipped (shopping for loose estimates).

      I’m collecting data and working on hypotheses for the next experiment now ;-)

      – Michael
      – Michael

  12. Very interesting experiment. This is so true that, altering your lead form as per user convenience can really impact your conversions.I really enjoyed your post, even though i didn’t understand the language used in the form. But your explanation helped me a lot. Looking forward to your next experiment.

  13. A web opt in form was recently installed on the landing page by my designer but there hasnt been increase in conversion, what has gone wrong?

  14. It’s great to see others doing great work in optimising landing pages. We have been working with an insurance broker in Australia and have achieved a 64% converting page in a 5 month period. http://www.buildsafe-lp.com.au
    We haven’t done much to the quote page other than to make it look appealing for the consumer. We will look into using some of your insights over the next few months.

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