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Guidelines for an Effective Subscription Form

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Presenting potential subscribers with an effective opt-in form is essential in creating a good mailing list. The subscription form has two main goals: to collect enough information to begin a relationship and to communicate trustworthiness to the subscriber. Herein enters the trade off: how to request sufficient information without instilling distrust in the respondent? Kath Pay from Infobox offers a list of tips for optimizing your subscription form, which can be organized in terms of content, design and wording.

Form Content:

  • The initial subscription form should request the minimum amount of information necessary to begin a mailing relationship. Email address only or address and full name provide enough information for a basic personalized communication.
  • More information can be requested in subsequent e-mail interactions, once your subscriber has developed greater trust toward your mailings.
  • Optional form fields can also be used to request additional information. Pay recommends limiting optional fields to five, since anything greater will create the impression of an intimidatingly lengthy form.


  • Use error detection script to alert subscribers to information entered incorrectly. This minimizes faulty entries and maximizes the validity of your mailing list.
  • To the same end, include an extra field so the respondent fills in their email twice.
  • Include wide form fields so that the respondent doesn’t have to scroll from side to side, making it as easy and convenient for them as possible.
  • Use blank tick boxes so that opting in is an active choice. This prevents respondents from feeling like you are trying to cheat them and reduces spam complaints later on in the game.


  • Clearly label whether a field is required or optional, so respondents are not needlessly intimidated by the breadth of the form.
  • Don’t use confusing instructions for checking tick boxes. The use of double negatives and other confounding tactics will make the respondent feel like you are trying to trick them.
  • Everything they are opting in to by checking tick boxes should be explicit in the text of the form, not hidden in the “Terms and Conditions”. Even though respondents are required to read this, they will still feel deceived when they encounter mailings they did not expect.

When a customer feels tricked and associates this with your company, it hurts your brand. In an increasingly connected market where word of mouth reigns, it is not worth it to pad your mailing list so your message reaches a greater number of people. Remember that, as far as mailing lists go, quality is absolutely more important than quantity. Following the tips listed above will help you maximize the relevance of your subscribers while optimizing their perception of your trustworthiness.

Written by Adam Blitzer

October 31, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Forms, Landing Pages

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