The idea of a mad lib sign up form was popularized by Jeremy Keith’s audio sharing site, Huffduffer. Essentially, Jeremy took a boring, out-dated sign up form and turned it into a conversation. Instead of asking for first name, last name, and email the traditional way, Jeremy turned the questions and answers into a casual conversation.
Sometimes referred to as fill-in-the-blank forms, mad lib sign up forms have transformed the lead conversion game. In fact, Hacker News had quite a lot to say about mad lib forms. Some were skeptical they’d receive the same results and some were excited to give it a try (just to see).
“A lot of folks commenting sound pretty skeptical - with good reason, of course - but I can't help look at that form and catch myself thinking 'Gee, that looks fun to fill out'. I think it’s really clever,” said Ron Whitman via Hacker News.
Case Study: Vast.com
After hearing about Jeremy’s mad lib sign up form theory, Ron Kurti tried it out on his own website, Vast.com. In the end, Ron saw conversions increase anywhere between 25 and 40%. Because of this, the Vast.com team started using the mad lib forms on their other sites, continuously testing different types and styles.
Tip: If your mad lib sign up form doesn’t increase your conversions, start testing. Test the dimensions of the form (narrow vs. wide), test the wording of the copy (casual vs. professional), etc. It’s just like any other CTA - it needs to be perfected.
Case Study: Auto Deals+
A popular affiliate marketer, Jordan of Stack That Money, is in the business of making conversions. In fact, he spends most of his days optimizing dozens of landing pages for conversions.
Jordan, being a conversion rate optimization fanatic, decided to test out the mad lib sign up form for himself. In his test, the traditional form had a 14% conversion rate. His mad lib form? Well, it had a 21% conversion rate. That’s a 50% improvement.
So, why does it work? Well, it turns out there’s some psychology behind it. Here are the three theories that back up the mad lib sign up form movement:
1. Fun Is The New Black
Never underestimate the value of novelty. As the saying goes, novelty eventually wears off. Fortunately, you only need them to fill out that form once. So, if you want people to do something that benefits you more than them, the least you can do is make it fun.
I know it sounds simple, but it’s often overlooked. The more fun something is to do, the more likely someone is to do it. And, just to be clear, there’s nothing fun about the traditional first name, last name, and email schtick.
I mean, look how much more fun Jeremy’s Huffduffer form looks than a traditional sign up form!
2. Converse & Convert
As Ted Rubin and #MMchat put it, we’re shifting from convince and convert to converse and convert. Converse being the key word there. The mad lib sign up forms are very conversational. It’s like your leads are writing you a letter or, more accurately, a quick note. This is the closest marketers have come to humanizing the sign up form.
Once your leads have made it to the sign up form, you’ve likely already convinced them. What you haven’t done is converse with them. Fortunately, the mad lib form is a pretty good substitute. It gives the illusion of one-to-one, casual communication!
Just look at how Loggly, the world’s most popular cloud-based log management service, designed their sign up form for beta.
3. Shiny Object Syndrome
You’ve probably heard of Shiny Object Syndrome. Actually, you’ve probably fallen victim to it once or twice. You’re just browsing the Internet, doing your thing when all of a sudden - Oh! A shiny object. Traditional sign up forms are just that... traditional. They’ve been done a million and one times before. A mad lib form is out of the ordinary - it’s a shiny object.
As Seth Godin would say, mad lib sign up forms are purple cows.
“Every day, consumers come face to face with a lot of boring stuff-a lot of brown cows-but you can bet they won't forget a Purple Cow. You're either a Purple Cow or you're not. You're either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice,” said Seth.
Where the traditional sign up form is a regular, everyday brown cow, the mad lib form is a purple cow - a shiny object. We’re naturally easily distracted by, and drawn to, what’s new or out of the ordinary! Take advantage of that.
As with any other best practice or conversion rate optimization tip, testing is important. What works for Jeremy and I may not always work for you. Try as I might, I’ll never find a CRO tactic that works for every marketer. So, just because Vast.com saw a 25-40% increase in conversions, doesn’t mean you will. You might see less, you might see more (like Jordan did).
Still, it’s impossible to deny that countless marketers have been able to increase their conversions with mad lib sign up forms. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to start testing and experimenting with mad lib forms - while they’re still fun and shiny.