Forms are a pain. We know users don’t like filling them out. They demand users’ time, effort and personal data. It’s your job to reduce the pain points of your form. Let’s start with the time it takes to complete.
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.
Different kinds of forms e.g. sign up forms, lead generation or surveys, will take more or less time to complete. Users tolerance for time also changes based on what sort of form they’re completing. Always optimise according to your own data.
Why is ‘time’ an important metric?
In UX Movement’s 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”.
“Users will weigh the effort it takes to complete your form against the value they’ll get from using your site.” – Anthony Tseng, UX Movement, @uxmovement
Effort can be seen in the amount of time it takes to complete your form. This is sometimes referred to as “conversion duration” and has a direct link to your overall conversion rate.
Reduce time and you’ll reduce checkout abandonment and form dropoffs. Add to this the chance to reduce perceived effort and the number of people who start your form should increase.
What data should I look at?
Improving any metric requires you to know what baseline you’re starting from. You want to know first of all how long it takes your users to complete your form.
Below you can see an example of the Completion Time report in Formisimo. The median length of time taken to complete the form is plotted over a date range.
No matter how long or short a time the form takes to complete, it’s usually possible to make it even easier.
Finding the bottlenecks
Next, look for the low hanging fruit i.e. the bits that need improving and/or will almost certainly perform better if you optimise it. Try to spot the bottlenecks where your users spend the longest time.
It’s possible to use Google Tag Manager to show form field timings, however, dedicated form analytics require less effort to set up and provide more insight. Here’s an example of Formsimo’s Field Times report:
The fields that take the longest to complete are displayed at the top of the table by default.
Learn more about the most time consuming fields
Now you know which fields take the longest to complete you can dig into your data to find out more. Are users hesitating around that field? Are they making corrections in that field? Do the fields that take the longest also have high drop off rates?
This is easy to investigate with Formisimo via the Problem Fields report. There you’ll see time and corrections together, illustrating the severity of the problem for each form field.
In the example above, the field for card number takes the longest time to complete and has the highest number of corrections. It doesn’t have a high drop off rate though. This probably means that users are making mistakes or fear that they are, causing them to check over their entry and make corrections.
What does it mean for my users?
To understand why ‘time spent’ is high you need to analyse user behaviour. Here’s some top tips for interpreting the data.
Extra time spent in a field sometimes indicates hesitation. Consider the following reasons users hesitate:
Question is difficult to understand
Do users understand what they have to do? Observing users via session replay or user testing may reveal confused behaviour.
User is reluctant to answer
It could also mean they’re reluctant to give the information required to complete the form. Sensitive information that could cause hesitation and dropoffs include:
- Phone number
- Company name
- Gender, especially if the choices are restrictive and/or will be used to build a public profile.
Users have to gather information
Not all details can be filled out off the top of your head e.g.:
- Payment card details
- Passport number
- Social security aka national insurance number
- Images or documents they have to upload
If users are primed to expect these questions they may take longer to complete the form as they gather the relevant information.
Users are going off site
Finally, hesitation and dropoffs in the same field could mean users are going off site for a period of time, perhaps looking for an alternative place to buy or looking for advice relating to the task they’re trying to complete. Voucher codes fields in forms often prompt shoppers to look for a voucher code. If they find a code that works on a competitor’s site they might abandon their purchase on your site.
Could any of these reasons apply to the form fields where users are spending the most time according to your form analytics?
Users may also spend longer in a field if they have to make corrections to it. Some possible reasons for corrections include:
The user made a typo
Typos happen but it’s unlikely that typos would cause a spike in corrections in a particular form field. More likely is users are afraid of making a mistake and so spend time checking and re-entering their information in sensitive fields.
The question is unclear
Users don’t understand what information is required and so enter the wrong thing, only to later correct it of their own accord or when they’re told there’s an error.
Unforgiving data formats
Your data formatting requirements don’t allow users to enter information in different styles e.g. with spaces in their card number.
The form is broken
Is your form broken or could it be perceived as broken? You can segment your form analytics to show data by device type. Is the problem worse on mobile?
3 ways to reduce form completion times
Here’s some ideas for reducing the conversion time of your forms.
Assess your form with Cut, Keep, Postpone, Explain
Long forms cause ‘form fatigue’, where users get tired and frustrated with answering a lot of questions, eventually abandoning the process.
Reduce the number of questions you ask and you’ll reduce the amount of information a user has to provide, the number of interactions they have to make and ultimately the time it takes to complete the form.
Keep, Cut, Postpone, Explain is a framework developed by Caroline Jarrett (@cjforms) to improve forms. Assess each question in your form as follows:
- Keep only the questions that are necessary in order to complete the task.
Cut optional fields.
- If you want to ask additional questions, postpone them until later in the relationship e.g. prompt users to add more information to their online profile.
- Explain questions which might be ambiguous or that users might be reluctant to answer. The faster users understand the question and why you need to ask it the faster they’ll get through the form.
Cutting questions can combat concerns of users who are reluctant to provide certain information. Our client, Knowlarity, saw this when they cut a field from their lead generation form. By cutting a field, they increased conversions by 11%.
Improve clarity and you reduce cognitive load, the effort required to mentally process the form. Do this by:
- Reducing clutter i.e. remove extraneous content and organise your form into different sections with whitespace.
- Writing better labels. Clear form field labels help to avoid confusion, hesitation and errors.
- Building on existing mental models. Consider whether users understand your icons, design or how the form functions. Is it intuitive and will they have come across it before? Labels inside form fields might pose a challenge for users who aren’t familiar with this method.
- Prime users. For example, let users know what kinds of payment method you accept. Many users might expect to be able to login in to Paypal, SagePay or similar. You should also clearly state what documentation the user should have to hand before they start filling out your form.
Focus on payments
Ecommerce sites have notoriously low conversion rates. Our data shows that, of shoppers who start the checkout, 27% complete it on desktop and only 19.7% complete on a mobile device.
Faster ways to add card details
We’ve written a whole blog post on making card payment forms more user friendly. Here’s the important stuff on helping your users add their card details more quickly:
- Cut out the ‘card type’ question – you can work this out on the backend using the card number.
- Add a feature that allows users to scan their payment card with a mobile phone camera.
- Reduce the amount time the user spends checking over their details e.g. by feeding their information back in an easy to see format, like Card, which creates a visual feedback of card details (shown below):
Secure Trading suggest you “allow customers’ payment details to be saved” using methods such as card store and tokenisation. These store shoppers card details but generate unique reference numbers for each transaction.
Need more advice on optimising your ecommerce site? Download our whitepaper now:
Image credit: Alan Cleaver