Why "Mad Libs" style signup forms are just a gimmick

The last few days I’ve been seeing a few references to “Mad Libs”. Confused, I quickly punched the term into Google and discovered that it was a reference to something we’ve all done at school, filling in the blanks in a sentence. A couple of sites, like konigi and webmonkey had posts about HuffDuffer using a “Mad Libs” style form as their sign up form. The question was raised by a few people as to whether this was good design. Luke Wroblewski (in collaboration with Vast.com) did some research and came up with astounding results that the conversion ratio rose some 25-40% when a Mad Libs style form was used. That’s an impressive, but meaningless number. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that HuffDuffer has found something that works for them. But lets step back for a second and analyse why the results that Vast.com got might be this way.

Here’s a thought; maybe it’s just because its a completely novel approach to a signup form. But can you really see this becoming the standard way to do signup forms? How long do you think it will be before this becomes more annoying than amusing? So quit jibber jabbering about how good it is and take a look at the long term picture. Mad Libs style forms are not something you can take and apply elsewhere with guaranteed results.

To be fair, I’m biased against filling in the blanks. I hated the premise at school and I will probably continue to hate the practice until it, or I, ceases to exist.