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How User Friendly Are Personal Loan Forms?

Form Optimisation

When people need cash for a significant purchase a personal loan is often their first port of call. With an abundance of providers to choose from, competition is strong.

Application forms that are quick and easy to complete consistently deliver higher completion rates and improve marketing return on investment.

Yet many personal loan companies ask customers to complete long forms and fail to ease friction. I completed a review of 39 personal loan application forms and found huge differences between providers. This article uncovers the key learnings from my analysis and reveals the significant opportunities available to loan providers.

In August 2017, I created a persona and used it to complete 39 UK personal loan application forms.

Performance was measured across 52 metrics including fields used, timings, and mobile usability. I then ranked each form on the basis of how likely it was that the form would convert.

Choose the Right Keyboard For Upwardly Mobile Completion Rates

There has been a clear shift in the degree to which we use our mobile phones to undertake every-day online tasks.

Ofcom report that:

  • Smartphones are now UK internet users’ number one device
  • We spend two hours online on our smartphones every day; twice as long as laptops and PCs

Given that mobile users operate on-screen keyboards, providing the right keys is important. When a field needs to be completed with numbers a numeric keypad should appear. And for emails, a keyboard with letters including the @ symbol is preferable to one without.

This reduces the number of clicks required to switch between keyboards making it quicker, easier and less frustrating for customers to complete forms.

Significant Room for Improvement

Given the swing to smartphone technology, it’s surprising that almost half of loan providers fail to provide the relevant keyboard at the right time.

Even the strongest forms have room for improvement. Despite being ranked sixth in my analysis, Money Guru failed to provide an email-specific keyboard containing the’@’ symbol.

To see the full personal loan application form league table, click here.

Don’t Give People a Reason to Stop

Why is this problematic? If your form fails to offer customers the mobile experience they want (and that other providers can give them), they may switch to another device. This break could make drop-off more likely as consumers are required to overcome the hurdle of logging back on.

Or perhaps life gets in the way and their intention to complete your form disappears.

None of which bodes well for form re-uptake or completion.

Inline Validation is Under-Used

Form filling is rarely enjoyable and it can be frustrating. Never more so than when users believe they have filled in details correctly but are hauled back to amend a field.

Good form UX is low on this kind of annoyance and high on good form flow.

Inline validation – usually a red error cross or green tick next to the field – improves form engagement. These symbols let customers know whether they’ve provided the correct information as they complete the form.

Not only does this tactic improve interaction but completion times decrease and conversion rates improve. It also helps to ensure you receive all the information you need in the right format.

Opportunities For Enhanced Data Entry Confirmation

My loan form analysis reveals that only some providers are taking advantage of inline validation.
51.3% of reviewed providers identify errors only and 10.3% confirm both error and success. That leaves a substantial 38.5% of providers failing to provide any inline validation.

Why Bother With Inline Validation?

Inline validation is one way to apply gamification to forms and improve user engagement.

Green ticks that reward desired behaviour tell the form filler that they are moving towards their end goal, step by correct step. Completing each field correctly creates a snowball effect and encourages users forward.

Debate rages as to whether red crosses are detrimental to this process; only form analytics will reveal the truth for your users.

Conduct A/B tests on different inline validation approaches to see which works best for your customers.

Why Are You Asking Me That?

Research shows when you ask for something, providing a reason for your request is more likely to get you what you want.

The same is true for forms. Loan forms in particular ask for personal details, like income, that are not often asked for on other forms.

Such questions may feel unnecessary to users which could lead to suspicion and form abandonment.

If information is superfluous, it’s a good idea to remove it.

However, where business processes require particular details, providing a reason for your request is likely to smooth the way to higher completion rates.

Simple Solutions

There are two main methods to explain why particular information is required:

  • Showing constantly visible text next to a field
  • Using a pop-up that:
    • reveals explanatory text when a user hovers over or selects it
    • automatically pops up as the user progresses to the next question

Almost half the forms I reviewed failed to provide additional information indicating another area for enhancement.

Work On a Need-to-Know Basis

If you decide to adopt this approach for your forms, you might find it difficult to provide a valid reason for requesting each piece of information.

If there’s no business reason for the inclusion of a particular field, you’re likely asking a question you don’t really need to know the answer to. Such questions can be removed from the form.

Can Removing Fields Really Impact Form Performance?

When working with one of our clients, Knowlarity, we identified a drop-off point when users were asked to complete ‘company name’.

Removing the field had no impact on business processes and improved their form conversion rate by 11%

Reduce Completion Time with Radio Buttons

In an industry where people have their hopes fixed on a particular purchase, there’s an urgency to form completion.

My analysis revealed a 600% variance between the quickest and the slowest form completion times. That’s just under a minute for the fastest form and almost six minutes for the longest.

Slowed Down with Drop-Downs

Of the 39 personal loan forms completed, 33% used drop-downs over radio buttons.

Drop-down lists require two clicks: one to select the drop-down and reveal the list of available answers and once to choose a response.

Radio buttons are set out on-screen next to the available responses. Round or square, users only need to click a radio button once to indicate their response.

Source: Stack Overflow

Source: Stack Overflow

In an earlier piece of research, I revealed that radio buttons are almost one second quicker to complete than drop-downs. Which means the 33% of personal loan companies who don’t use radio buttons are missing a trick.

To really help your UX, arrange your radio buttons with the most-frequently selected options listed on the left. Most users will need to read fewer responses, reducing the time taken to review and select.

Another great reason to use radio buttons is that they are scan-able and space-saving. Which makes them more practical for mobile devices than drop-downs.

Chunking Forms Down Doesn’t Always Help Users

When forms take too long to complete, people run out of time, patience or both. And conversion rates suffer as a result.

Field Number Directly Correlates to Form Completion Time

The personal loan forms I reviewed ranged from a completion time of 58 to 341 seconds.

The longest form to complete had most fields (74). The form that was quickest to complete had least (12).

The difference in number of fields? 6.16 times more.

The difference in time completion? 6 times longer.

That’s an almost perfect correlation between field variance and form completion time. Which indicates reducing the number of fields on the loan forms I analysed could pay significant dividends.

A simple yet effective way to resolve this issue is to remove optional questions which will reduce form completion time and improve completion rates.

Avoid Your Form Ending Up in the ‘Too Difficult’ Pile

Given the difference in number of fields, there was also a significant variation in the number of steps each form was split into. The shortest forms required users to complete a single step and the longest arranged fields over eight steps.

In a user’s mind, more steps can mean too much work consigning your form to the ‘too difficult’ pile.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a single step is the right way to go. Other tests have proven that more steps are better, particularly where a large number of fields are genuinely required.

Use form analytics to reveal the number of visitors that convert to form starters. This metric can indicate that a form looks too difficult to begin.

Form-fill fatigue and drop-out are more likely to occur as a result of long, arduous forms. Make sure yours isn’t one of them by reducing the number of fields and steps, and optimising your forms with lower friction radio buttons and gamification.