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Form Abandonment Tracking – What the Data Means, and How You Can Fix Your Form

Form Optimisation

Tracking how and when visitors abandon your online forms can help you improve them and see an increase in conversions from your website. Formisimo’s form tracking tool will give you the data, but it’s still up to you to work out what this means, and how to fix it. In tprhis blog, I’ll run through some possible reasons for drop offs and discuss how to fix them.

When a visitor starts a form, there is intent behind their action. They want to complete the form to achieve another goal, and that goal in most cases is one that will both benefit the visitor and your business. I will exclude discussion of shopping cart abandonment for now, as this is slightly different. Online shoppers can enter goods into the basket with no intention of buying, or to do a ‘dry’ run to examine shipping costs and delivery dates. For the sake of this blog, I wish to speak about those forms that if a customer starts, there can be no doubt they the originally intended to complete it. Contact forms, job applications, registration forms would all fall under this type.

If they begin the form and then abandon it without submitting it, something has gone wrong (obviously). Something has overcome their original intention; some negative experience has eroded their sense of purpose. It is your responsibility to eliminate the triggers that cause visitors to leave your form.


Your form may be saying this, but your visitors aren’t listening

Formisimo can give you data on form abandonment, sorted both by overall drop offs and also broken down by field, but you still have to interpret this data to find out how and why you should amend your form.

An example form, showing reasons for form abandonment

Let us consider this fictional example for a registration page for a new social network. All of the fields are required, and they are in the same order on the page as they appear on the table below:

Starters and drop offs shown in a table Drop off table

What can we see from the above?

  • Overall drop off rates are high at 73%
  • Users seem to be comfortable entering their name and email addresses, as neither cause many drop offs
  • Username too, seems to be relatively straightforward to complete (perhaps there is an inline validation feature in this field that suggests alternate usernames is the original one is already taken – Twitter and many other social networks so this).
  • Date of Birth is the field that most users drop off at, followed by phone number. Between them, they put off 51% of all form starters and account for 69% of all drop offs.

So Date of Birth and Phone Number seem to be the most problematic fields for your form. Almost half of all users stop completing your form at either one of these field. Why? Let’s compile a list of possible reasons:

  1. The question is unclear or ambiguous.
  2. The form is too long.
  3. The information required is deemed unnecessary or too personal by the visitor.
  4. The field requires the data to be entered in a way that is not immediately clear.
  5. Some other technical issue is causing problems

5: A technical issue is causing problems

5 involves general troubleshooting. Wimbledon’s online shop is an example of how this can happen. The solution? Testing. Try to fill out your own form. Try to break it, enter details wrongly, complete the field in different orders. If you do find basic functionality issues, get them fixed.

2: The form is too long

With regard to 2, the length of a form will always impact the number of completions. Form fatigue happens to us all. If the number of drop offs stays more or less constant as you move down the form fields, this may just be an indication of the natural attrition of your visitors. If you drop off rates are high but no one field seems to stand out as a drop off magnet, then your form may simply be too long. Users start and gradually (and at different points decide that completing it is too time consuming. The general rule of thumb for forms is always – the shorter, the better.

1: The question is unclear or ambiguous

1 is an interesting one. The oft used example of Expedia is a perfect case of this. Expedia had a field labelled ‘Company’, but visitor often wrongly assumed they were asking for the name of their Bank. This was causing plenty of failed submissions and in turn drop offs. Expedia removed the field entirely (though a less ambiguous label may have also done the trick) and received $12 million in extra revenue as a result. Are your field labels absolutely clear and unambiguous? Make sure they are, and consider explanatory text if needed.

4: Data entry requires a strict format

4 is an issue about form validation. Does your form require that users enter data in a specific format? Do you explain that format? For instance, can a phone number be entered in one long string, or does there have to be a space between the area code and the rest of the number? One option already mentioned is to have some guidance text, like in this product key field:

Product Key

Another strategy could be to separate the different elements into different boxes:

Phone number form fields, 1 single box, 2 segmented into different parts

I personally think this is not a good idea however. If the cursor moves automatically between the boxes, some uses may press tab in anticipation of having to do this manually and find themselves skipping a box, and having to go back and correct themselves. It also is not clear how many numbers should go in each box – for instance, one way of writing a British phone number is in the format of 0207 XXX XXXX, but other equally valid ways are 020 7XXX XXXX and 0207 XX XX XX. Splitting boxes makes this part of the process more hassle than it need be. The safest bet is to be as accommodating as possible, and allow for different formats of entry. Visitor experience always trumps the cleanness of your database.

cartoon depicting a man trying to remember a woman's phone number

3: The question seems unnecessary or too personal

3 is a common culprit, and probably to blame for the drop offs we can see in the table above. If your form asks for information that does not seem to immediately correlate with the visitors’ goal, it can be a stumbling block. If this social network is web based, why do I need to provide my phone number? Will I be bombarded with text notifications, or will it only be used to verify my account if it is hacked? Why am I asked for my date of birth? Is this website restricted to a particular age group? I don’t want that information displayed publicly; how do I know this will not happen?

Think about why you need this information. If it is not completely necessary for you to have it (at least at the sign up stage), then cut it. In the above example, it may have meant almost twice the number of completions if both date of birth and phone number were removed.

If you deem this information to be essential to your business, there are options. Explanatory text is one way. Simply explain why you are asking for this information and what you will do with it. This may affect completion times (as visitors will spend more time reading the text and considering it), but may help decrease your drop off rates. Another option is to postpone asking for this information. Your sign up form will be shorter, and you can request this information when your new and shiny customer logs in for the first time. Many social networks do this already, asking for phone number information at a later date.

You should not use this above data in isolation. Formisimo gives dozens of other metrics about how visitors interact with your forms. These are important for giving context to your form’s issues. You can get a free trial of Formisimo to see how form analytics could benefit your site:

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