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What is the worst-case scenario? A possible €20,000,000 GDPR data breach penalty. While legal issues aren’t to be taken lightly, we are not lawyers. Gathering personal data has a more tangible impact on your website and business. It’s possible that you’re feeling it every single day without realising it.

Types of personal data you can collect

In our blog post about the European data protection law, we’ve listed several examples of personal data.

Disadvantages of personal data collection

Most people don’t like sharing personal data. This shouldn’t be a shocker. Even though nowadays visitors can auto-fill the forms, they need to feel they’re getting enough back and it often comes down to trivial matters. The removal of a single field in a web form resulted in $12,000,000 increase in sales for Expedia, an online travel agency.

For example, there isn’t always a need to have “First name” and “Last name” fields in a newsletter sign up form. Merging them into one “Name” form is likely to increase its conversion rate.

There are arguments for an exception from this rule, like when your CRM requires these details to be split into two. But isn’t that a problem of its own? If the limitation of another tool is forcing you to make another mistake, it can quickly spiral out of control.

Removing one field not only makes the form appear as more attractive, but it also gives your visitors a choice. They might prefer to input their first name only because it doesn’t seem as personal as their full name.

This basic example works for newsletters and simple contact. What should you do if you’re selling products or offering a service and require more personal information?

How to ask for personal data?

Keep it short and simple

If you really need to ask for more data, especially sensitive information like a phone number, specify why!

If filling your form will result in a purchase, make it obvious that the transaction is safe.

Your form shouldn’t feel like an interrogation. If it’s really long you could split it into multiple pages, allowing the user to visually track their progress with a progress bar. If you decide to do so, don’t go overboard. Only use a few pages and double-check if the smaller forms contain cohesive fields.

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Pay attention to the design

For longer forms, it will be helpful to highlight the active field.

You might also want to avoid asterisks or red “required” text, especially if the majority of your fields are mandatory.

Instead, you should opt for an “optional” tag next to appropriate fields. This not only makes the form look cleaner, but it also tells people that they have a choice. If your form screams “required” from most of its fields, it might seem like it’s asking for more personal data than it actually does.

Validate user input

Last but not least, your web forms require proper validation. It only takes a few failed attempts to discourage your visitors. Sometimes all it takes is one false validation error and you lost a client. Make sure your form accepts special characters in the name fields. Don’t penalize your visitors if they input postcode as L40TH instead of L4 0TH.

3 tips for personal data collection

  • give your visitors an incentive
  • make your forms easy to fill
  • ensure there’s a proper data validation in place

Look at them from the point of view of a visitor and be open to change. One tweak might be all it takes to significantly increase your conversion rate.

Originally published Aug 30, 2018 9:00:48 AM, updated August 15 2022.

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