Filling in an online form. Photo: Tero Vesalainen

Designing online forms to engage with workers about their work

In the TUC Digital Lab we’ve been doing some research into using different formats of work advice to find and engage with non-member workers. We’ve got more info about this here, but I wanted to start with some interesting lessons we’re drawing from the numbers on how our forms worked, which could be useful to unions seeking to engage non-members for organising projects.


For this project we had trialled advertising a new pdf resource on dealing with redundancy and change at work. We advertised it on targeted Google and Facebook searches, directing people to a page where they could register to download it via an embedded Typeform.

This was a small scale pilot, with limited investment in the ads. We wanted to see if we could use this content to establish a connection with people that would give us permission to engage with them more deeply and that would help us identify useful context that might make for a viable organising offer if done at scale.

Attention and data are forms of currency

Filling out an online form is pretty simple – ours took on average 1 minute 15 seconds. But that doesn’t mean people don’t put effort into considering whether to do it in the first place.

There are a lot of considerations for them to take into account. Is it going to be a hassle to do? How will the data be used? Will they end up being spammed and having to unsubscribe, or getting data shared onwards? If they’re offering sensitive data, could this be exposed to employers?

It’s worth looking at your registration forms as an exercise in bargaining. Is what you are offering worth the work and the uncertainty for the user in seeing this through?

There are three ways you can improve your results here.

1. Demonstrate the value.

Think about what it is that you can offer and how much work people might be willing to do to get it. How can you present your offer as being a packaged solution to the need they are currently experiencing?

For this we made a one page website (with registration front and centre) that outlined the various reasons people would want to download this resource (we used the landing page design methodology outlined from this project).

We could of course have put all the information in this guide on a public website without asking for registration. But by marketing it as a product – a complete publication to download, we made it seem more like something which made sense to be delivered in that format and for which a user could quantify a value to weigh against the work in getting it.

2. Focus on what you need to know.

At the start of a project you don’t really know where it may end up being useful, so it’s tempting to hedge bets and ask for loads of information, in case you need it further down the line.

We used Typeform for this, and it helpfully shows the percentage drop off for every question. Out of our seven questions in this form, there wasn’t one question that didn’t see at least one person drop out before answering it. From landing after the ad click, a whopping 66% of people didn’t even answer the first question.

So if your goal is to engage with new people, reduce the work you are asking them to do as far as possible. Ask whether each question is really going to be used, and if not, try to drop it.

And if you see a particular question is causing people to drop out in large numbers, have a think about whether you can change it to perform better.

3. Focus on how you are asking.

People who aren’t union members may have preconceptions about unions. Or just as likely they might not ever have thought about us at all.

Unions are about context, and to do any useful organising we’re going to need to know some details about people’s work. But telling someone you don’t yet trust detail about your job or employer is a big ask.

We asked for seven pieces of information: First name, email address, permission to contact, employer, industry, region, union membership.

We tried two versions of the form and measured the results from each. One which had friendly prompts as to what we would do with the data (delivered in smaller description text under the questions). And after a while we switched it to just the questions themselves.

For example, we asked for the name in two ways:

  • What’s your first name?
  • What’s your first name? (this is optional, it’s just nice to know what to call you)

When we look at the number who landed from the ad and went on to complete registration, we saw a pretty different picture.

The friendly questions got a 25% overall conversion from landing on the site. The questions without context only got 14.5% of the people who landed to actually complete the whole process.

There’s a clear difference here. If you’re paying for ads to target your materials to relevant people, then getting a 40% increase in the number who register means in effect that your ads were that much cheaper (regardless of any benefits to the users in having a friendlier process!)

And not only does this help the number who respond, it can also lead to more useful data too.

Mindful that people will be worried about revealing where they work, for fear their employer find out, we asked for employer information in two different ways:

  • Where do you work?
  • Where do you work? (This is optional and we’ll never publish it. It helps us make our resources more relevant)

The more reassuring description, with a convincing reason as to why we wanted to know, got 71% of people to contribute some kind of information to this field. The plain description scored just 48%, with the majority skipping past it.


Love them or hate them, any online engagement you want to start with prospective members is going to involve a form of some kind. Forms are everywhere and can seem an unimportant part of the process compared to a marketing campaign before the form or the organising engagement afterwards.

But before you launch it, think about the context in which it will be used and what the user will be feeling as they do it. Think about making it easy for the user, not just easy for you. And think about how you present everything you’re asking in a way that helps build trust. Union organising is all about building up trust – it’s no different online.