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I've recently had users test a prototype for a new portfolio site for my company. The homepage is almost like a one-page site in that it has distinct sections, although each section links to another, related page.

The last section is currently a contact form with a header above it inviting users to fulfill their goals by working with my company. (My current site only uses a separate contact page. I wanted the redesigned site to be higher-converting.)

Below is the contact section, which I am aware is missing an email address field. (On the real site, I would want this to be a natural-language contact form like a Mad Libs contact form or nlform.js.) This section would have a hero area and several other sections above it and a footer below it.

enter image description here

The Epipheo homepage currently does have a full section with a contact form.

Several users found the contact form section very big and loud and wanted me to get rid of the background I was using on it. After thinking about this for a while and trying several backgrounds that weren't very different from the original, I started to wonder: were the users only objecting to the background around this contact form? Or did they find it pretentious that my portfolio site even has a contact form on its homepage?

What has been your experience with this - either on your portfolio site or client sites? What have users generally said about whether or not a contact form section on the homepage is OK?

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    I'll be interested in seeing other's answers on this, but in general, this is the sort of thing that I would build and A/B test to see what effect it has on conversions. Every site is different, so even if this worked awesomely for Epipheo, it might fail miserably for you. – Daniel Newman Apr 16 '14 at 18:42
  • @DanielNewman +1. I'm definitely thinking about an A/B test for this. Currently, I have other higher-priority items to get to first with this site, so I probably wouldn't get to test this specifically with users because of that. It's a portfolio site, so the cost of user testing comes out of my own pocket. – David Apr 16 '14 at 19:12
  • @David: It doesn't have to be expensive. Google Analytics Experiments can do most of it for you. I suggest creating a version of the same page but with a blank background to that area and running those variants through a Google Experiment to see what you get. The only cost there is the time it takes to create a blank background version, and then add in the relevant GA tags to the HTML. (Of course the site does have to be live at that point for it to work though). – JonW Apr 17 '14 at 12:38
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Firstly, I commend you for getting some genuine testing done on your design. Many products don't allow themselves this and suffer with a poor performing site as a result.

However:

...Several users found the contact form section very big and loud and wanted me to get rid of the background I was using on it. After thinking about this for a while and trying several backgrounds that weren't very different from the original...

You've already had some genuine feedback from people who have actually used this, which was to change the background. It doesn't sound like you've actually taken that feedback on board really. "After trying several backgrounds that weren't very different from the original..." - why didn't you try anything different to the original if that's what the test users suggested?

It sounds like you're trying to re-interpret what it is they've suggested in a way that will still allow you to keep the design that you clearly have a soft spot for, regardless of how the users themselves feel about it. Unfortunately that is just one of the things we have to come to terms with in our profession. Ideas that we may really like don't always go down as well as we'd hope with the users, and in that case you have to be able to step back and look at the data and not just with your emotion.

If you're getting people to test your prototype and several people report the exact same issue then really you should at least try to do as they suggest and then retest with them / others. That is valuable feedback so use that feedback and try a more neutral background for that section of the site.

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That is quite a loud background, but I think there's a problem with the contact form as well. I don't think it's impossible to open with a contact form, but it doesn't work here.

I'd pinpont the following (potential) flaws:

  • The site doesn't follow social norms. You don't ask questions before telling people something about yourself, and why they should talk to you. These social norms apply to sites as well. Contacting you is an investment of energy and trust. Give people information to decide whether they should make that investment.
  • It assumes to much for an opening page. If a user clicks a 'contact' link, they will try to interpret anything they see as a contact form. On the home page, you don't have this benefit. There are fewer expectations, so you need to spell it out more. The user doesn't expect to see a contact form, so you have to work harder to make it look like one.
  • The perspective shifts. The first text is written from the perspective of you talking to the user. Then the block below it turns this around and speaks from the user's perspective.
  • It's unconventional. Giving people a mad-lib style text is not the traditional approach. This might tittilate people, but there's a real risk of annoying them or confusing them. I'd build in safeguards, like a button they can press to just type their own message instead.
  • The focus is on the wrong element. The fill-in form has higher contrast than the welcome text. But the form makes no sense unless you've oriented yourself by reading the welcome text first.

As for the user tests, if you ask users for their opinion (which is a risky thing to do in a user test) try to follow this rule (paraphrasing Neil Gaiman): If they tell you something is wrong, they're almost always right, if they tell you why it's wrong and how to fix it, they're almost always wrong.

  • Thanks. The contact form is at the end of the homepage, not the beginning. Full homepage prototype here (with identifying information removed): nl5tjl.axshare.com/homepage_b.html. – David Apr 16 '14 at 23:08
  • Damn, I missed that part of your question. Well, most of these points don't apply to the full design, but I'll leave them up for whatever they're worth. – Peter Apr 16 '14 at 23:59
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Its actually very good idea to ask user friendly questions rather than just simple label. This will surely work, as long as you split it in two sections one with the form & other with the contact information. You can label the form with 'Let us contact you' or 'Let us know you'

When it comes to background, its way too loud. But its not just the contact but the overall prototype sucks. I hope it just prototype & you'll design it later.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    This is not a very constructive answer. Why is 'too loud' a bad thing? How do you know that asking user-friendly questions 'will surely work'? And finally, saying the prototype sucks is incredibly unhelpful and impolite, especially if you offer no reasoning or suggestions. You are required to Be Nice on this site, and you're treading a very fine line with that comment in that respect. – JonW Apr 17 '14 at 12:35

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