Increase membership: Make joining easy

So you've successfully driven a potential new member to your website, nice one!

But now comes the hard part, converting those visitors into members. In this article we discuss how to make sure your application process is a smooth, well oiled machine with no stumbling blocks to send those visitors running for the hills.

Increase your membership: make joining easy

Is your membership form easy to find?

The first step to increasing memberships is to make sure your application form is easy to find. Don't hide you application form at the bottom of your home page or in a simple hyperlink. It is important to include a prominent call to action on your home page encouraging potential members to take action: Join Now, Sign Up, Become a member, Register Online.

Call to action


The Inspire Foundation's calls to action are front and centre on their website encouraging visitors to 'Apply for a grant' or to 'Become a member.'

Inspire Foundation Call to Action

As well as having an eye catching link from your homepage it is also best practice to include a stand alone page from your navigation menu to cover all bases.

Architectural Designers New Zealand (ADNZ) include video testimonials on their 'Join' page as well as a list of the benefits of becoming a ADNZ member. Video is the hot new trend in marketing, using video as part of your digital strategy can increase the engagement and effectiveness of your messages.

"59% of executives agree that if both text and video are available on the same topic, they are more likely to choose video" (MWP) .

ADNZ Join Now

Is your membership form easy to use?

The second step to increasing memberships is to make sure your application form is easy to use.

Filling out your application form will be a new members first interaction with your organisation, are you giving the right first impression? Does your online form represent your organisations values and visions.

In this day in age there’s no excuse not to have an online form, the benefits of them well out weigh the cost of implementation. However we understand for some industries it can pay to also have a paper form as an option but be sure you indicate clearly the options available.

Read about the benefits online application forms can make to your business and members in our blog article 'Online Forms - A business game changer'.

6 steps to creating a frustration free online form;

1. Validation design is critical for obtaining the correct information

Online Form Design _ Validation

Validation is the process that checks whether what you’ve entered into a form is correct and displays the appropriate feedback.

It's often overlooked because it’s not immediately visible on the page, yet poorly designed validation is a major cause of frustration for users and at its worst will lead to complete abandonment of your form.

How many times have you tried to submit a form to be told there are errors but not what/where those errors are?

2. Form field details can make or break a form

Just like the design of a door handle suggests the way that door should be opened, the design of form fields suggests the type of input they require. Granted, there’s usually a label next to each field, but users should be able to quickly scan a form visually and get a rough idea of what they need to enter.

Online Form Design _ Affordance

The size of an input field suggests the amount of data required, an age field should be much shorter than email address

Styling form fields for better affordance pays off every time a user engages with your form, because their experience will feel just that little bit more effortless.

3. Making it mobile-friendly creates greater accessibility

Studies show that people using mobile devices are more focused on completing set tasks. Poorly optimised forms can be a real pain for users to fill in from their mobile devices.

By using "responsive" design techniques, it's possible to design a form that adjusts its layout on-the-fly and reshuffles and hides elements that aren't needed.

It’s easy to get lost in a form when there are multiple fields to fill in, so make it clear which field currently has focus. This can be done through visual highlights.

Reduce the amount of data people need to enter, pre-fill any saved details where possible. The more you can cut back on what they have to enter, the higher your form completion rate will be.

4. User experience is key to user satisfaction

User experience design is a balance of many different factors that come together to effect how someone feels when they use your application.

Online Form Design _ User Experience (UX)

Who is going to be using the form? It's important to know your audience before designing a form, as different demographics will have different priorities, needs, and preferences. A young computer gamer entering a competition might enjoy quirks and challenges that others find annoying. At the other end of the spectrum, a senior citizen who simply wants to pay their parking fine online wants as little fuss as possible.

Test with Real Users. There’s nothing like watching a group of customers in person interact with your for to give you some cold, hard, instant feedback on UX.

5. Integration makes things easy for you and users

Simply put: an integration connects one system with another system so their data and features can be shared. Improving workflows with a 'simple' integration can have a huge impact on your business, lowering overheads, reducing repetitive admin and giving your company the ability to scale.

Online Form Design _ Integration

The payment form sends the customer's credit card details off to the bank via a secure integration. This goes on behind the scenes, so to the customer it's completely seamless because they never leave your website. Once an application has been confirmed another integration with your back end software sends the new members details to your database.

6. Tracking gives you information on how to improve your forms

Tracking how people use your form is often an afterthought, but without tracking in place how will you know if it’s really hitting the mark. To measure long-term success, you need to set clear objectives and track user interactions.

What can you track?

  • Track the number of validation errors people are encountering when using the form. If these are high, your design may be confusing in places.
  • How long are people spending to complete the form? Too much time might indicate that people are getting stuck. Tracking time spent on each individual step would help to identify exactly where that’s happening.
  • Quite often, standard tracking does not record the action of submitting the form. Putting in place tracking for this is essential given it’s usually the ultimate goal.

Based on the tracking data that comes in, it’s a process of continual review and improvement.

Ultimate Guide to Online Form Design

Case Studies

We've worked with a variety of organisations in different industries on overhauling their application forms and review systems and have witnessed the power of a beautifully designed form.

BioGro

BioGro is New Zealand’s largest organic certifier. The administrative aspect of processing applications was time consuming and frustrating. For those looking to become certified, the process was at times overwhelming, and the sheer volume of man hours needed to process and manage applications meant BioGro struggled to keep up and certifications were often slow to turn around.

We developed an online application form and customer portal that allows their customers to create and manage their entire Organic Management Plan (OMP) online. Information is passed seamlessly between the customer facing portal and the back-office FileMaker system used by BioGro - feedback is instant and all parties are able to see activity in real time.

Read more

Inspire Foundation

The Inspire Foundation provides funding and life skill development assistance to talented youth in Canterbury and Marlborough. Their grant application process was manual and laborious for both prospective grantees and those at Inspire who were charged with assessing and approving them.

So we built an online application form and account area for would-be grantees. For applicants, this meant that all of their details were captured under their profile making subsequent applications super-quick and easy. For Inspire, applications were now coming through digitally and in a standardised format making it easier to read and share amongst the review committee.

We were able to take full advantage of the application data being delivered electronically and built a fully-interactive web app for reviewing applications that caters to the variety of roles that need different types of access. This included the review committee, administrators, media and those giving the final tick of approval.

These improvements in efficiency were key to the Inspire Foundation being able to roll out into the Marlborough region late last year.

Read more

A guide for membership-based organisations: How digital technology can increase and retain your membership base

If you would like to talk to us about your online application form or integrating your software please drop us a line or give us a call on +61 1300 783 217

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Other articles you may be interested in… Increase engagement: member portals

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