When I re-did the website for our Italian school a couple of years ago, part of the job was to reproduce our rather long and complicated booking form.
All language schools must have a long and complicated booking form (maybe you’ve noticed.) It’s a matter of credibility.
Sometimes it’s online, and crashes mid-way through, so you lose all your data and have to start again.
Often there are those dreadful messages informing you, in a polite but infuriating way, that you forgot to fill in a ‘required field’.
Then you have to scroll back, and back, and back, to find the bit you missed, which if you’re lucky might be identified with a little red asterisk. Shame you won’t see it unless you have your reading glasses on.
More traditional language schools might even make you print the damn thing, fill it out by hand, sign it, and fax it back to them. (And if you don’t have a printer? Or a fax?)
I remember, back in the day, making ours as comprehensive and professional-looking as possible. Lots and lots of questions to cover every eventuality.
‘What’s your mother tongue?’, ‘What’s your level in Italian?’, ‘What other languages do you speak?’, ‘Do you need help finding accommodation?’ ‘If yes, do you smoke?’, and even ‘Are you allergic to cats / dogs / children?’
People filled it in, though. Must have taken them ages, but hopefully they thought it made us look professional. (They were wrong, it’s the teaching/learning that does that.)
Anyway, so there I was, a couple of years ago, having to re-do the site using a new content management system, with which I was less familiar than the old HTML.
To cut a long story short, I got to the point when I realized that the only way I could create a suitably impressive and functioning booking form was by using a ‘plugin’, which is a sort of extra bit of code you can install in your system to do something that it otherwise refuses to do.
After some head-scratching and plenty of trial-and-error, the plugin was finally installed and I was able to get started re-creating the saga that was our old booking form.
Not until I’d laboriously completed the first section (of five) – ‘name’, ‘surname’, ‘nationality’, ‘home address’, ‘phone number’, ‘e-mail’, ‘date of birth’ – did I realize that, oops, I’d run out of fields!
The new plugin had a limit to the amount of data you could collect.
Guess I should have chosen the ‘paid for’ version, but by that point I’d wasted so much time there was no option but to shrink the form radically so that it wouldn’t exceed the maximum allowed number of fields.
This was not going to look good, I thought.
But then, thinking how I would explain the new-look booking form to Stefi (my wife, and co-owner of the school), I reasoned that the only REALLY essential bit is the e-mail, right?
Stefi’s anyway going to mail them straight back to sort out the details… People always have plenty of questions, so she gets right in touch to reassure them, and to deal with anything that’s not clear.
Less for you to read, darling. Think of the time you’ll save!
I’d just finished a copywriting course, so I decided I would give the booking form a fancy name. To make up for it being so short.
I deleted the first draft title, ‘Italian Course Booking Form’, and replaced it with something more… aspirational.
‘Bye bye’ old, saga-style booking form.
‘Hello’ radical, slim-line redesign!
That’s a true story, albeit not a very interesting one.
But go take a look for yourself at ‘Your dream of speaking Italian starts here!‘
Bet you could fill it out in under 60 seconds!
Talking of plugins, we also have one that creates those irritating pop-up thingies.
People hate those.
But fill it in and you’ll get a voucher to save 15% off any group Italian course at our school in Bologna.
Find out more about:
(If you miss the pop-up, you’ll find a static version of the ‘save 15%’ form on our home page…)