Forms That Work – Questions and Answsers is about how to design forms for the web. It’s a bit vague on tips though, and sometimes even plain clueless.
Anyways, a few common myths about forms in my experience – I’m sure there’s more:
2. “It’s a web standard to indicate required fields with an asterix * and most people understand that.” No they don’t. I’ve been surprised noticing how many people do not know that a field with an asterix is required. For most forms, I’d recommend (if most fields are required) to put “optional” next to optional fields, or (if most fields are optional) to put “required” next to the required fields. Of course, often you’ll be able to separate them out into separate sections (a required section first, and an optional section later), which is even better for the user.
A common objection to making fields clearly optional, is that it reduces the amount of data the marketing department can work with (these optional fields are usually for marketing purposes). But what are the numbers like? Experimenting with your form, the way it’s worded, the way it’s layed out, can bring a high level of opt-ins even though the information isn’t required. Assuming making things vague will increase the value of your marketing data doesn’t seem right to me.