Below are ten ways in which to create a sign-up form that will lead to higher conversion rates. All of these tips should be tested before implementing them on to any website. I also created a video about Sign-Up Form Design Best Practices, which can be found at the bottom of this post.

1. Use top-aligned field labels

When you align your labels above your fields, it makes your form quicker to fill-out as the user’s eyes don’t have to go left to right to read your form. If you are low on vertical space, then place the labels to the left, but align them to the right.

2. Don’t make lightbox forms too easy to close

Although using a javascript lightbox may increase potential sign-ups, make sure that your lightbox doesn’t close by clicking on the gray area around the form. Instead, use a “Cancel” or “Close” button to ensure that the user closes the lightbox only intentionally.

3. Validate form fields

Rather than letting a user fill-out a form incorrectly, then submit it to find out that they made a number of mistakes, inform the user that a field has been incorrectly filled out as they fill it out without letting them submit the form. This also makes the form more like a game, passing each field, level-by-level.

4. Use a descriptive call to action

Instead of the usual “submit” or “send”, try using a call to action that describes what it is that they’ll be getting out of submitting the form. If it’s to be able to start commenting on your forum, perhaps title your CTA something like “Join the Discussion”.

5. Use microcopy

Microcopy is short, effective bits of info that answer vital questions that users have as they fill-out your form. These are questions such as “will i get sent a lot of emails if I sign up to this?” or “is this a free trial?”. Answer those immediately using microcopy – text that is not overly prominent but that answers very important questions in the users mind. It’s all about making the user feel at ease as they fill-out your form.

6. Shorten your form page

This may seem like an obvious one, but the idea is not only to decrease the number of fields in your form, but to also shorten the height of the page that it is on. If you can move some content over to the side or show some of it only on-hover, that has a potential to improve completion rates.

7. Show users what they’ll get

Make it crystal-clear to users what they’ll be getting after submitting your form.

8. Remind users who and how many others signed up

If there are other well-known companies or individuals already using the service or if there are any big statistucs you can throw out there to make a convincing case to sign-up, that may help conversion rates.

9. Add Facebook Connect

Adding Facebook integration has been shown to increase sign-up rates by up to 200% on major websites. Give it a try if it applies to you. In cases where a lot of information is required of users, it can act as a life raft.

10. Give a sense of security

Using security badges such as Verisign and McAfee can help at times when sensitive information is being passed through the form. Another badge that can help in this department is the Better Business Bureau’s rating.

Here is my video about Sign-Up Form Design Best Practices: