Opting for better Opt-Ins

Posted On: Aug 17, 2015

Forms, they ain't fun, the majority ain't pretty and for the most part we're just happy to finish filling them in. UX has stepped in over the last few years to try and improve the experience of the form filling process, stepped forms, lazy loading forms and even forms that don't look like forms at all.

But having said all that - the element of form filling that annoys me the most is not poor layout or examples that are excessively long or even intrusive forms its the opt in step.

Being asked if I want to receive ongoing communications from company X isn't that bad on the face of it, I mean they want to keep a decent sized user base after all and if I've gone to the trouble of contacting them, it's fair to assume I'd be ok with deciding if I want to continue the relationship.

We often see two types of opt in on a form:

The cheeky assumption

This is where the user is told "Check this box if you DO NOT wish to receive...." this is fine but a little sneaky as most users now will skim this section and as the they are becoming increasingly savvy with online form filling, will likely leave this unticked (probably expecting it to mean if they tick it they are signing up for something).

The polite consent check

This is essentially the opposite of the above. Something like "Check this box if you DO wish to receive....". Fine, you are making sure the user definitely wants to receive your communications but why not make it a little less uninviting, a DOM standard checkbox with some bland text is unlikely to catch the attention of a potential good customer.

Something new

Recently I was coding an enquiry form, it was for a site that had a wide range of courses across multiple subjects. The client wanted to be able to target the interests of each user based on the course they enquired about. So I set them up a MailChimp account and created them a segmented list (one segment for each subject). So now every time a user signed up they were added to a list along with the course data that identified the subject area they were interested in BUT in order to make it more than just a checkbox, I thought, why not change the process...

So as a solution, the user fills in the enquiry form, all the form data is sent to the intended recipient, after a little ajax magic to handle the send, a new form with an email field (prefilled with their email address) was shown asking if they wanted to be added to the (let's say) Art & Design newsletter list.

Much better then a check box - it gave the client the opportunity to say much more about what the user was signing up for and meant the user felt like they knew what they were going to be receiving.

For me, this is how I'll be handing opt ins in the future - at least until something even better shows up.


  • UX
  • web design
  • web development
  • email marketing