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February 24, 2009

Ten Tips For User Friendly Online Registration Forms

Have you ever registered or attempted to register for an event and spent half an hour trying to figure out what you needed to do? Or have you used an online registration form that lost your data or was so complicated that it seemed like more work than faxing the form?

When used properly, online registration is an extremely powerful tool that makes registration easy for event participants. If used improperly, event participants can be left extremely frustrated and in some cases reluctant to attend the event.

We have put together a list of ten design tips to help you create user friendly registration forms and give your event participants a positive registration experience.

1. Make the registration form easy to access

Make the link to the online registration form very obvious. Event participants may not be familiar with your website and will become frustrated if they have to hunt for the registration form. If you are sending a URL (web address) in printed material make the address as simple as possible so participants aren’t entering a long string of characters. Also, only put a registration form in a password protected part of your website when absolutely necessary. People often forget their passwords, which will cause more frustration and possibly generate calls and emails to the event planner.

2. Make your form familiar and secure

Event participants need to be reassured that their data is secure. A good way to do this is to brand the online form to match your website. This way, the transition to the online from is seamless and event participants will remain comfortable with the process. Also, make sure that appropriate security icons such as the lock symbol in your browser appear when collecting credit card numbers.

3. Make the registration form clear and easy to use

A well laid out and visually appealing registration form encourages event participants to register. On the form, keep text to a minimum and make it clear what you want participants to do. Use logic to guide participants through the form and give warnings if something is wrong.

4. Have appropriate payment options

If you have a fee associated with your event, make sure the payment methods you offer are appropriate for the people registering. For example, large companies may require an invoice before a check can be issued and some groups of people may not have credit cards.

5. Make sure it works

There is nothing worse than entering all of your registration data and then getting an error when you click submit and losing the data. Before going live, be sure to test your form several times selecting all of the different options to be sure everything will work for the event participants.

6. Display your privacy policy

Many people are concerned about who will have access to their information and how it will be used. Make sure you have a privacy statement available on the online form to reassure participants that you are protecting their information.

7. Anticipate questions participants may have

Don’t overload the form with information (tip 3), but have information on the form that you think may be useful when registering such as prices, dates or special instructions. It’s inconvenient for participants to have to click back to search for the information on your website and in some cases clicking “back” will delete the data in a partially complete form.

8. Only request necessary data

The less information people have to provide the more comfortable they will be with the process and the quicker they will be able to complete the form. If you are asking for personal information such as birthdate it helps to add a note saying why you are requesting the information.

9. Don’t over use mandatory fields

Mandatory fields help to get fully complete registration forms, but too many mandatory fields can frustrate an event participant. This is especially true if there is information that is not readily known such as the fax number for someone else in their group.

10. Avoid making participants sign up with another company before they can register for your event

Some online registration companies require that people registering for your events first sign up as a member with them. A system like this has its place, but many event participants will be turned off providing information to a third party.

A related article “Online Registration: Getting people to use it” is available on our website and offers some suggestions about how to get people to the online from in the first place.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or comments about this article.

About The Author:

Jim Romanik – founder of ePly Online Event Registration Software (http://www.eply.com)

We are online registration experts and treat your reputation as our own to build registration forms that help your events succeed and make people wonder how you did it.

Download our Free Guide – “What Every Event Planner Should Know About Online Event Registration” at: http://www.eply.com/lp/articles.html

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