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I had a request from one of our staff to change the forms to not require the email address because a single person (out of probably 1000 applicants) cannot submit the form because, apparently, that single person does not have an email address.

How do I determine if I should go through a change? It would allow a few people without email addresses to submit forms, but it might increase the risk of people skipping that field entirely.

Is it a numbers game? Or is it going to be about how important the email field is for the specific form?

Related : Is it safe to assume that everyone has an email address now?

  • Related: Question about mandatory fields – jazZRo Sep 30 '15 at 6:23
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    You can eliminate the possibility to skip the field by adding another option: 'I don't have an email', like with a check-box. And forcing the user to either provide an email or checking the box. – Assimiz Sep 30 '15 at 6:31
  • @Assimiz: That is a very good solution to the problem, maybe you can post it as an answer. In the related question (see my comment above) I posted an answer about stimulating and not forcing to fill in form fields. This is a good example of that. – jazZRo Sep 30 '15 at 7:07
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Took @jazZRo advice to post my comment as an answer:

You can eliminate the possibility to skip the field by adding another option: 'I don't have an email', like with a check-box. And forcing the user to either provide an email or checking the box.

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Yes, it's a numbers game. Decisions should be made based on the majority of your users. At the same time consider if all the fields that are required are really needed.

one solution would be to make the email field not mandatory.

another solution in your case would be to get that single person an email address.

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It all depends on your overall goals for that form. If the email address is 100% necessary, then the small majority of people that don't have an email address shouldn't be accommodated. If the email address isn't 100% necessary, make it a voluntary field.

Often site owners/developers will require WAY more than necessary on a form. They've been taught to get every bit of data so they have every chance at capturing the sale, lead, signup etc. In reality, it's driving away business. People don't want to enter unnecessary information. To some people, an email address is unnecessary.

So, look at your goals. Do you need that email address right now? Can you try and collect it on the next visit?

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As Paul Dessert mentioned, part of it is a business decision. What are the consequences of NOT having email info for somebody? Would you still be able to contact them? Do you need to contact them in the future?

If the answer is no (e.g. you have alternate methods for contact), consider this approach

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

This is the approach we've used in a cellphone service signup flow. A sales rep is suppose to ask for the customer's email info and only if they don't have one (e.g. grandma who's not tech savvy) would they use the checkbox "escape hatch".

I believe it should translate OK if the person is directly filling in the form themselves. Email is fairly commonplace nowadays. Putting the email input right next to the "Email" label ought to be enough to prompt people to enter their email address.

It doesn't hurt to test it to confirm there's no change in the behaviour of the rest of your users.

I want to also point out, just because you have a field, it doesn't mean the user has provided a valid/their own email address. So if you're doing the test, it might be a good idea to visually scan the list of emails inputted before and after the change to verify the quality of email inputs. It could be more people then expected are selecting the "don't have email address" checkbox, but it accounts for the bogus addresses you've been receiving previously because people have no other alternatives for continuing.

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