Your brain is extremely fast. It’s capable of processing data and making a decision with unparalleled speed.
Macro decisions, like product purchases, may be considered, but micro decisions such as whether to tap the back button or to sign-up for a newsletter are impulsive. In the case of micro-decisions, reasoning, logic, and past decisions are processed so quickly you don’t even notice the decision — we call those processes “gut reactions.”
There are many reasons you might want subscribers to your newsletter. For instance, email is up to 40 times more effective than social media, especially for small businesses. But whatever your reasons, if you want to gain more subscribers via your newsletter sign-up form, you must focus on encouraging positive gut reactions from your users.
This post will help you perfect your newsletter sign-up form and, in doing so, gain more subscribers.
The Perfect Newsletter Sign-Up Form
Newsletter sign-up forms are an established design pattern, and by following a handful of simple rules, it’s possible to build the perfect subscription form.
1. Tell Users What They’re Signing Up For
It isn’t sufficient to say “Newsletter” or “Subscribe;” you need to be clear about precisely what the user is signing up for.
Is the newsletter a daily, weekly, monthly, or occasional affair? Does the newsletter include industry news or just your products and services? Will the newsletter include offers, case studies, and technical advice? Will the content be unique to the newsletter or rehash content available elsewhere on your site?
Not only will being transparent help encourage sign-ups, but you’ll also reduce the number of unsubscribes.
2. Use One Field and One Button
As with any form, the easier it is to fill out, the more likely a user will fill it out. The perfect sign-up form has an email field and a submit button.
You do not need to know your subscriber’s name, age, gender, marital status, or shoe size. Users that are prepared to disclose that much information need to be committed.
Focus on the gut reaction of users; all you’re trying to do is persuade a user to disclose their email address. That is enough.
3. Use a Horizontal Layout
Place the submit button to the right of the input field in cultures that use a left-to-right language (e.g., English-speaking countries). (In cultures that use right-to-left, put it to the left of the input field.)
In longer forms, a vertical layout is more effective, but in a newsletter subscription form, the horizontal design minimizes the apparent effort in filling out the state and encourages sign-ups.
4. Drop the Privacy Checkbox
In the era of privacy consciousness, many designers add an “I consent to receive marketing” checkboxes to their newsletter form fields.
This additional form field is entirely redundant. Assuming you’ve been transparent about your newsletter’s contents, the user is consenting to receive it by supplying their email address.
Acquiring double consent is not necessary, and any additional field is an obstacle in persuading a user to sign up.
5. Add JIT Text
JIT (Just in Time) text is used to clarify the terms under which you’re sending a newsletter. Again, it’s about transparency and providing the user with clear expectations.
6. Add Urgency
Adding urgency to a call to action (i.e., your newsletter subscription form) is UI 101. Yet, too many designers skip this in favor of “Sign Up,” “Subscribe,” or the entirely disinterested “Newsletter.”
Adding the word “Now” or “Today” to your label will not make it significantly larger and will improve conversions.
7. Use a System Font
We’ve already touched upon the importance of reassuring users about their privacy. One simple UI trick that can subtly reinforce the idea of privacy is to swap the brand font for a system font in your input field.
When the input field uses a brand’s typeface, the data appears to belong to you. Conversely, when the typeface is the default used by the user’s device, the data feels like the user’s.
It’s a subtle psychological way of reassuring users that they are in control.
8. Add FOMO
Social proof is fundamental to a persuasive website. If you can use it to add FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), then more users will subscribe to your newsletter.
Simple copy like “Find out what 250,000+ subscribers already know” is guaranteed to piqué a user’s interest.
9. Add it to the Footer
The footer of your page is where users look for global content like contact details and opening hours. Your newsletter sign-up form works great in this context.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t fit nicely elsewhere as well, but make sure you have a copy of the form in your footer.
This will benefit those users who use a newsletter signup form as a bookmark to return to the site later.
10. Enable Auto-Complete
Although most people’s fingers have the muscle memory to type out their email address in a second or two, it’s still a relatively large effort for your user to make.
Browser auto-complete generally “just works,” but you can assist all modern browsers by using a semantically correct email type for the input field and ensuring it’s accessible.
Ben Moss is Senior Editor at WebdesignerDepot. He’s designed and coded work for award-winning startups, and global names including IBM, UBS, and the FBI. One of these days he’ll run a sub-4hr marathon. Say hi on Twitter.