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Form Analytics: What Metrics To Measure

Form analytics, which reveal insights into user behaviour in your online forms, make up a set of diagnostic metrics.

Diagnostic metrics, along with predictive ones, are the metrics that matter. Pelin Thorogood, digital marketing strategist and analytics executive, explains that marketers must go beyond simple descriptive metrics, such as site conversion rate, to understand the what, why and when of customer behaviour. Diagnostic metrics help you understand the levers of change and predictive metrics help you anticipate how changing one thing will affect the rest.

With form analytics it’s possible to take a descriptive metric, your site’s conversion rate, and draw out diagnostic metrics to explain it. I’ll show you what metrics to measure and how you move the metric to improve your conversion rate:

Visits to starters

form visitors versus starters

Why does this metric matter?

Between the number of people who visit an online form and the number who start filling it out, there can be a high drop off rate.

Large dropoffs between users visiting the form and starting it, indicate that the perception of effort is high i.e. the form looks like more effort than it’s worth to fill out. UX Movement compiled a list of 8 reasons users don’t fill out sign up forms. Number 5 is “Too much work to fill out compared to value gained”.

First impressions of your online form affect brand perception too, either because your users think, “Oh, this brand asks for too much information” or “Oh, this brand is so out-dated technically”.

By measuring this conversion point you’ll be able to see if optimisations you make to the form design attract more visitors to start it.

Move this metric by…

Reduce the perception of effort by shortening your fields as much as possible, simplifying multiple choice responses (more on this later) and showing how long the form is or how many steps there are to complete it.

Highlight beneficial outcomes of completing the form. Explain the purpose of the form in terms of benefit to the user e.g. A heading above an address form that says, “Address where we can deliver your prize”.

Offer additional incentives to fill out unappealing forms e.g. “Register an account and get 10% off your next order”. Alternatively, highlight the long term benefit e.g. Register for an account to personalise your shopping experience”.

Time in field

Field times report in depth

Why does this metric matter?

The length of time it takes users to complete your form is a good measurement of the effort it takes to fill out. Reducing the amount of time it takes to complete will improve the user experience. It should also increase the number of users who complete the form and potentially the number of users who start the form, if the perception of effort is reduced as a result of the changes you make to the form.

Forms that take a long time to fill out can suffer drop offs as a result of form-fill fatigue. This means that users simply drop out because the form is taking a long time to complete and they don’t want to continue any more.

Formisimo form analytics can track a variety of time-related data. In our Global Checkout Statistics update we reported on checkout timings across 229 different countries.

On average, it takes users 74 seconds to complete a checkout, 5 seconds to engage with the first field and 5.2 seconds to complete each field.

Average checkout timings

Move this metric by…

Avoid presenting a lot of information that will take users a long time to scan over e.g. long drop down lists.

Luke W, author of Web Form Design, says dropdowns should be a last resort. He proposes a number of alternative controls to allow users to choose from multiple choice responses.

In the image below Luke W shows a form that uses dropdown fields alongside an alternative design which uses switches, a slider and segmented controls.

Two form designs showing dropdowns and alternative controls

Luke W explains that dropdown fields are much more effortful, requiring several taps or clicks to make a selection. He shows that just one or two taps would be required if an alternative control were used.

Long forms should have a progress indicator to help users feel like they are making progress, the end is in sight and they know where they are in the process.

Progress indicator

Further reading: How to reduce conversion time with form analytics


Circular chart showing percentage of corrections by fields

Formisimo Total number of corrections report

Why does this metric matter?

Generating a corrections report with form analytics shows you where users are being held, fixing information and probably getting frustrated. Corrections can be simple correction of user error or can indicate that the field is difficult to complete. Either way you can help.

Move this metric by…

Improve the labels on your form fields to help users understand more quickly and accurately the information they need to enter. Keep the language simple, avoiding any slang or branding language that could be misinterpreted. Make sure to make distinctions clear such as ‘Delivery address’ and ‘billing address’ or ‘Name, as it appears on the card’.

Be more flexible with data inputs e.g. the format you accept date of birth in, allowing postcodes to be entered with or without a space. Where formatting is critical, add instructions underneath the field. For example, date of birth where day must come before month could be explained as DD/MM/YY or DD/MM/YYYY.

Handle errors with kindness. Errors delay users, not only because they have to re-enter information but because they have to figure out what went wrong. You can reduce the chance of errors with good labelling but it’s hard to eliminate them.

There’s some debate over the best time to alert users to errors. One side of the argument says inline validation helps users fix errors as soon as they make them reducing the sense of making an error speeding up the process. The other side says inline validation interrupts users’ focus and creates confusion and so advocates listing all errors together at the top of the form. Despite this conflict both sides agree that error messages should also be displayed next to the afflicted field, to most quickly and accurately direct the user to the fault. Write error messages that explain the fault and explain how to correct it, not just repeat the label.

One key point of error handling is not to reset the form. Maintain the information that users have entered as clearing the form will add time and increase frustration.

A clever tool to save users time and improve data quality is an address lookup feature. PCA Predict, address lookup and verification web services, recently introduced ‘fuzzy matching’ to Capture+ lookup. This allows users to type any part of an address and choose from a list of results. The feature allows typos and misspellings. It’s great for users, saving them from typing the whole address and great for businesses to ensure the entry is correct and in a standard format.

Further reading: Form analytics: Measuring field abandonment

Popular drop off

Popular drop off pie chart

Why does this metric matter?

Popular drop off is all about understanding the pain points of users who have abandoned your form. Drop offs indicate the last field a user interacted with before they left. Address the worst offending fields first for the biggest optimisation gains.

Move this metric by…

The first thing to do is investigate high drop off fields for technical faults. No amount of persuasive copy can help your users convert if the form is broken.

A common blocker is postcode lookup that won’t allow users to enter their address manually. Not all address databases will be up to date and new addresses often can’t be found.

CAPTCHAs can trip up a lot of users. They’re not accessible to assistive technology and, by their nature, are very difficult to read. We recommend you handle spam behind the scenes, rather than placing the burden on your users.

An example of a CAPTCHA

CAPTCHAs are blurred and guard against machine reading

In a usability study on CAPTCHAs only 62% of participants completed the CAPTCHA on the first attempt and 15% failed to pass the CAPTCHA entirely.

Another common reason for users to drop off is required fields. It may be that some users don’t want to provide the information you’re asking for or it could be that they don’t know it’s required, leading to an error message if left blank. Make sure required fields are clearly marked and that you explain why you’re seeking sensitive data and how it will be used.

Further reading: 7 best ways to decrease your form abandonment rate

Gathering quality diagnostic analytics is the first step in optimising your website. With the insights these provide you can devise hypotheses for improvements. You should always test your hypotheses. If you’re new to multivariate or A/B testing, read our guide, The Beginner’s A/B Testing Toolkit.

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