For the financial world, the best lead is a completed online credit application. These customers are within hours of making a big-ticket purchase. Yet industry surveys reveal dismal completion rates. Why do applicants partially fill out and then abandon online credit applications?

The reasons are as varied as users, but one commonality is that usability and design typically fail to take into consideration some basic tenets of a user-centered experience.

According to a 2014 global survey by Formisimo, less than 50 percent of website visitors even attempt to complete a basic form online. Far fewer actually complete and submit a form. Form Stack says that depending on your audience and form type, the typical web form completion rate ranges from 1 percent to 35 percent. This means that even if you are at the high-end of the completion range, you are losing more leads than you are gaining. This represents missed opportunity and lost revenue.

We know from real-world experience that you can achieve much higher completion rates. Our clients’ completion rates for their online credit applications are consistently over 75 percent. Results like this are not achieved accidently; they are made by design.

Here are 6 of the most common design flaws that kill your completion rates.

1.  Left is not right

Yes, in the analog world of paper, people read left to right. Eye-tracking studies, however, reveal that people read websites very differently. In online credit applications, placing the label above (top-aligned) rather than to the left of a form field is a much better user experience for the visitor because it allows the user to process the label and field all in one quick informational bite. In the digital world, where every millisecond counts, this little bit of added efficiency will make a significant difference in the completion rates for your credit applications.

2.  You ask for everything and the kitchen sink

Long online forms scare people away. Most people see a long credit application and immediately abandon the process. People are time-starved and looking for efficiency and ease-of-use in their online experiences. They simply will not take the time to fill out a form that is perceived as excessively lengthy. This is even more the case with forms requiring financial and/or personal information. Here’s what works: If you are requiring a lot of information, break down the form content into steps/groups by categorizing the information you need (personal, financial, order details, etc.). Create short screens for each section to encourage applicants  to continue filling out their information, and show them where they are in the process at a given moment.

Which application style would you prefer?

-The 20-line form

-3 easy steps to your credit approval

3.   You forgot your manners

Remember that your credit application is one of the first steps toward building a relationship with your customer. Waiting until after the user submits an  application to acknowledge or to interact with the person is just bad manners. Keeping the applicant engaged through two-way interaction creates a positive experience and encourages completion. Here are a few simple reinforcements, or success messages, that entice a user to finish:

–Visually confirm a step is complete

–Let the user know they can return and make changes

–Make it easy to return to a step

–Give applicants a final option to edit their answers before they press submit

4.  Trust is assumed

Just because people decide to fill out your credit application does not mean they are  willing to trust you with all their information. In this data-hungry age, many marketers believe in getting all the information they can. But smart marketers know that asking potential customers for extra information is in fact highly counterproductive. If consumers think you are asking for personal or other information that you do not need, they will typically respond by abandoning the form. Only ask for the information you absolutely must have for the initial approval. You will have a chance to ask for additional information later. Trust is tough to win and easy to lose; don’t assume you have it.

5.  You wait for the ‘Submit’ to show entry errors

The probability of human error is high because to err is human. It doesn’t matter how well you design a credit application, people are going to make mistakes when they are filling it out. Errors are made for all sorts of reasons, such as unclear directions, reading too fast and consequently skipping a field, typos, etc. Improper error handling is what causes most people to abandon your credit app. Only one design tactic is error-proof — catching the mistake before it is submitted. A well designed credit application immediately highlights the field with the mistake before an applicant presses submit. Real-time entry validation and inline error handling allows users to complete credit applications faster with less effort, fewer errors and greater satisfaction.

6.  You tell them to leave the credit application

Whenever you send a prospect to find information on another page or in another section of the website, you risk that they will not return to complete the credit application. If you need to provide additional information, such as FAQs or order information, make sure it is done contextually, right next to the related field, not through a link that takes users away from the application. One effective method is to provide a pop-up with an explanation that appears when the user hovers over the field label. Whatever you do, NEVER take them away from the credit application.

Remember, when it comes to an online experience a form is not just a form. It is one of your first key customer experiences, and often tied directly to revenue-generating activity. When the offer is right, chances are your visitor will complete the application if it is engaging and rewarding and promotes trust. When you design the user experience with these elements in mind, your online credit application leads and your completion rates will significantly improve.