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Can we all just agree on one thing


Forms should be laid out in a single column, with labels above the inputs.

So says Nielsen Norman Group, Luke Wroblewski (p 27), and Adam Silver. These people have designed forms, thought about forms, observed humans using forms, and experimented on forms for a long, long time. They’re smart, and I trust them.

So why doesn’t Salesforce?

Screenshot of Salesforce landing page

… or Sephora?

Screenshot of Sephora.com checkout

No idea, but there are two possibilities.

They’ve tested it

Or who knows, they’re testing it right now, and I was in the test when I took those screenshots 🤯

If you have trustworthy data that tells you float labels or placeholder labels make you more money than plain old 😴 top aligned labels, well, you’ve got to act on that.

They haven’t tested it

If you haven’t gotten around to testing something as unsexy as form label placement, I don’t blame you. If your form’s broken, you fix it. But if it’s not, I assume all the following are better candidates for experimentation:

“Top aligned form labels” might be better than what you’ve got, but it’s unlikely they’re the single biggest improvement you can make to your website. They’ve got to get in line behind bigger, bolder ideas.

So it’s okay not to test them. But the problem with having untested design solutions … at a crucial point of conversion … that go against broad best practices consensus … is the anxiety it creates.

Maybe you’re immune to it; I hope so. But I’ve talked to tons of marketers and business owners who carry around doubt and uncertainty around just this type of element.

“We know our form could be better, but …”

“Yeah, that’s just the default layout for our theme; it seems okay I guess …”

These poor folks walk around every day concerned that their website is underperforming, while feeling helpless to do anything about it 😢

To anyone in this position, I suggest a top-to-bottom best practices overhaul for your forms. As a way to maybe increase conversions, and definitely put to rest the nagging doubts about what you might be doing wrong.

One day, when you do experiment on your form, you’ll be testing against a best practices baseline. But until then, you’ll know you did your very best ⭐️


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© 2022 Brian David Hall