Does a simple form matter?

I’m going to a conference in July at The St. Regis – In order to get a room in the hotel, I’ve got to fill out and fax back a form.

The form is on blue paper (?), it has lots of capital letters. It has tiny little lines for including my information, it doesn’t include a phone number, an email address or a way to register online. It’s also a little cheesy looking.

The reason this matters is that harried consumers of all stripes (especially business to business consumers) have nothing left but tiny cues to decide if something is good or not. A piece of email might be great, or it might be spam… and it’s just a few spurious characters in the subject line that set them apart. A hotel might be truly wonderful, or it might just have a really nice facade and website. A telemarketer might truly be raising money for a legitimate charity, or she might be keeping 90 cents on the dollar.

In a world filled with fraud, the little cues are suddenly the most important ones. Design matters a lot. Design, amazingly, is pretty cheap. For $100, this form could have been amazing. It would have cost them perhaps a penny a reservation over the next year, and it would have communicated an awful lot about the hotel.