Long Online Application and Chunking with Several Pages

17 Dec 2009 - 9:25am
4 years ago
16 replies
1030 reads
Don Habas
2008

Hi All.

I'm designing a very long online application for a financial product which spans across several pages. There are some sections which may possibly show a great deal of additional (reflexive) questions for certain scenarios.

For instance, on a page with 10 questions, the way questions 2, 3, 6, and 7 are answered may then show an additional 10-15 questions for each. Originally, I was going to display the reflexive questions under each parent question. However, I think it may intimidate the user and cause them to abandon. Therefore, we proposed a solution where the parent questions would be answered on the first page, and then subsequent pages would get the follow-up details. However, some colleagues aren't quite buying it. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, there isn't time to test. Does anyone know where I can find some studies or articles that may help my argument?

P.S. - The answer isn't "reduce the amount of questions". Underwriters won't let us.

Thanks.

Don

Comments

17 Dec 2009 - 9:41am
Remko Vermeulen
2009

They will abandon whatever you do and you will be blamed. Why not create a shorter version and do an A/B test and show your underwriters incl. the missed amount of revenue because of the long form?

Or check out out Luke Wrobleski's article on gradual engagament: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/signupforms/

17 Dec 2009 - 9:56am
Don Habas
2008

Let me just add something...users generally won't be answering the
follow-up questions for each parent question. They may only see the
follow-up questions for one or two. Once again, NOT going to be able
to limit the amount of questions. We worked with underwriting to get
rid of some, but there is still risk that needs to be managed.
Enterprise is aware of that. I won't get fingers pointed at me.

So...is it better to introduce the additional questions on a later
page, rather than, with the parent questions?

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17 Dec 2009 - 10:00am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Dec 17, 2009, at 9:25 AM, Don Habas wrote:

> Does anyone know where I can find some studies or articles that may
> help my argument?

Have you read Luke Wroblewski's Web Form Design?
http://is.gd/5riHR

That would be the place to start.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: @jmspool

17 Dec 2009 - 10:07am
Leah Ellison
2009

Your description of the project reminded me of TurboTax's online tax
forms. I use that service faithfully every year, and there are a
million questions (which will display more questions depending on how
you answer). I'm sure they struggled with not being allowed to cut
questions also. They have organized the forms in a way that in not
intimidating. As I said, I faithfully come back year after year
because the process is faster and less painful then paper.

I don't recall exactly how they have the parent/child questions set
up. I want to say it differs depending on the number of questions.
For example: If a parent question leads to 2 or 3 child questions,
then those are displayed under the parent. If the parent questions
leads to more than 4 or more child questions, those are moved to a
new page where the parent question becomes the main heading.

In any case, their strategy works well. It might be a model worth
investigating. Good luck!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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17 Dec 2009 - 10:28am
Don Habas
2008

Jared, I have. Page 28 begins to address this. The application will
definitely be broken out across several pages. It's more the
question of whether this is the best approach:

(follow-up page)
"Earlier you've indicated that you have xxxxx. We're now going
to ask you some further questions about your xxxxx."

Sure, we can ask about "xxxxx" right away, but by seeing all of
those questions earlier may be intimidating and lead the user to
think that every single question will require this much effort, when
that's really not the case.

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17 Dec 2009 - 10:32am
Don Habas
2008

Leah - that is part of the approach. If a parent question has a small
amount of child q's we'll show them right there. However, if it's
a significant amount, then those will be on a later page.

Thanks.

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17 Dec 2009 - 10:50am
Caroline Jarrett
2007

Don Habas wrote:
>
> > Does anyone know where I can find some studies or articles that may
> > help my argument?

And Jared answered:

> Have you read Luke Wroblewski's Web Form Design?
> http://is.gd/5riHR

Yes, I have (I contributed a 'perspective' to it) and although he does touch
on the question of how to split up a long form such as Don is struggling
with, he deals with it in half a page and doesn't address Don's specific
question.

I've got a bit more detail in my book ("Forms that work: Designing web forms
for usability" www.formsthatwork.com) in that the chapter 'Making the form
flow easily' is mostly about the challenge of splitting up long forms. But I
have to admit, it's still only 10 pages. (We were trying very hard to keep
the book short).

I've got a short article online ("Long forms: Scroll or tab?"
http://www.usabilitynews.com/news/article2352.asp)

So now to some real advice.

In the book, we mention a result from usability testing which is that users
don't like it when the page suddenly changes on them. For example, you're
typing along answering what looks like (say) a series of 10 questions. You
stick in the answer to question 2, and bingo the darned computer suddenly
changes the page to throw another three or four questions at you. Not a
pleasant experience. I'll go along with your convention of calling the
questions like question 2 'parent questions' and the ones that appear
according to your answer 'reflexive questions'.

So if you want to go with the 'expand the page' option, I recommend that you
include some sort of button or other indicator to show the user that
question 2 has this possibility built in.

Example: in the UK, the standard method of obtaining a user's address is to
ask for postcode and then expand the page to deal with the address. This
works very nicely if the box for getting postcode then has a button next to
it called 'look up address' or something like that. Clicking the button says
to the computer 'do something for me now' and sets the user up to expect
some extra questions.

This may or may not be possible to do on your form: you'll have to look at
the wordings for the parent questions and the reflexive questions to see
whether you can write the appropriate commands.

Another approach, which we call 'pre-build', is to ask the parent questions
on one page (one of the approaches that you're considering) and then build
pages of reflexive questions. This can work quite nicely, given good
explanations, and especially if its used in tandem with what we call a
'summary menu' i.e. a mini-menu that allows users to fill in the pages in
whatever order they wish and to track their progress on the different pages.
I think this is evidence in your favour in your discussion.

(Summary menus are a good idea for any long or complex form, as users are
likely to require more than one session to complete them).

So all of this was a long way of saying: it depends on the specifics of the
questions, the writing around them, and the details of the implementation.
It might help you to convince your underwriters if you can persuade them to
divulge exactly why they are asking the different questions so that you can
then explain those reasons to the users rather than just firing a long,
complex, and apparently random series of questions at them.

Hope this helps

Caroline Jarrett
www.formsthatwork.com

17 Dec 2009 - 10:57am
robert.gomes@vi...
2009

Please have a look at the following registration which I architected,
I faced exactly the same thing. But no follow up questions.
https://fxglobaltransfer.oanda.com/account/register/individual/beforeyoubegin

You can't remove questions, if it's compliance requirements, so you
have to convince your colleagues that It's better to place the follow
up questions on a separate page than keep building up the first one.

If you are able to do A/B testing, I would recommend 50% on the same
page, and 50% pushing the follow up questions to a second tab/page.
and make sure it's track-able or you can't prove you theories.

Good luck.

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17 Dec 2009 - 12:01pm
mjpaulus79
2009

I suggest taking a look at Fidelity.com. They put a ton of money into optimizing the experience of their forms and as a customer I was genuinely impressed with how efficient the forms are to fill out.

17 Dec 2009 - 12:25pm
bminihan
2007

I second TurboTax's pattern of expanding questions further down the process,
rather than making a given task (page) longer with expanded questions
in-line.

Their design is usable (to me) because it doesn't try to keep track of which
questions tie back to previous answers. The process just gets a little bit
longer. The wording on follow-up questions is suggestive of the answer that
produced it, but they don't try to force the UI to say "Following up from
question 3, 12 pages back, here are some more questions:" They just present
you with a well-designed page that treats the topic in its own right,
without extra crud used to reinforce the arbitrary process flow.

That is, I would go with asking the detailed questions later, but I wouldn't
try to ensure people could tell which answers spawned the new questions.
Just make sure they know they're coming, have a general idea (or specific,
if possible) of how much longer it will take (especially as/if that changes
during the process), and let each page be usable in its own right.

I follow this pattern with my current project, wherein users must complete
several independent forms in sequence, some of which change depending on
previous responses. I have found while observing users, that it is more
important to make the current page clear and usable, than to make sure they
knew why they had extra questions to answer.

Oh yeah, I believe TurboTax also provides an alternate "site map" while the
process unfolds, so you can see new forms as they appear, and jump around to
change the process, mid-flight. Might be helpful for your purposes, as it's
available off to the side, but not really "in your face".

Good luck =]

Bryan Minihan
Phone: 919-428-4744
Email: bjminihan at gmail.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/bryanminihan
Resume: http://www.bryanminihan.com/resume.html
Web Portfolio:  http://www.bryanminihan.com/portfolio.html
Blog:  http://www.bryanminihan.com/blog/

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Leah
Ellison
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2009 7:08 AM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Long Online Application and Chunking with
Several Pages

Your description of the project reminded me of TurboTax's online tax
forms. I use that service faithfully every year, and there are a
million questions (which will display more questions depending on how
you answer). I'm sure they struggled with not being allowed to cut
questions also. They have organized the forms in a way that in not
intimidating. As I said, I faithfully come back year after year
because the process is faster and less painful then paper.

I don't recall exactly how they have the parent/child questions set
up. I want to say it differs depending on the number of questions.
For example: If a parent question leads to 2 or 3 child questions,
then those are displayed under the parent. If the parent questions
leads to more than 4 or more child questions, those are moved to a
new page where the parent question becomes the main heading.

In any case, their strategy works well. It might be a model worth
investigating. Good luck!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=48008

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17 Dec 2009 - 12:51pm
AlokJain
2006

Dan,

Most Survey products do this as well in the manner you described where
based on previous responses different questions are asked - referred
to as skip logic/branching.

The main challenge is to make user feel they are in control, so it'll
be important to communicate what to expect next.

Alok Jain
Product Manager - Insightify
http://insightify.com

On Dec 17, 2009, at 6:25 AM, Don Habas wrote:

> or instance, on a page with 10 questions, the way questions 2, 3, 6,
> and 7 are answered may then show an additional 10-15 questions for
> each.

17 Dec 2009 - 4:43pm
Ed Lea
2009

Don,
Sometimes, child questions can help you understand the parent question, or better answer the parent question. Unless you're talking about essay type answers (where some sort of connection issue would lose you a lot of inputted data) I'd say keep the child q's with the parent.

18 Dec 2009 - 2:19pm
LukeW
2004

It sounds like you are discussing is "selection-dependent inputs".
Selection-dependent inputs are, in essence, a pretty simple concept:
Once a user initially makes a selection from one or more options in a
form, the user must provide additional input related to the selected
option before submitting the form.

Bout three years ago, I laid out a series of solutions for these with
the pros/cons I had seen across a myriad of implementations:
http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2007/02/selection-dependent-inputs.php

In Web Form Design, we tested these against each other. There's a
whole chapter on the results. We actually found something different
than Caroline in the usability test she mentioned. Our participants
(and other tests I was part of before) showed that hiding irrelevant
form controls from people until they need them results in forms that
are easy on the eyes and completed quite quickly.

That said there is a lot of nuance in how to display the interactions.
Interestingly Apple recently updated their checkout to use the
horizontal tabs model of selection-dependent inputs: http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?968

And I suspect they are experiencing some questions around mutual
exclusivity. From my testing:
Vertical and horizontal tabs actually perform quite well in all-around
usability, satisfaction, and eye-tracking metrics but come with the
gnarly problem of mutual exclusivity. I’ve gotten conflicting data on
which of these options resolves this issue so they both seem to be
stuck with it. If you can get around mutual exclusivity through clever
interaction or visual design, good performance is yours to be had with
these solutions.

There some solutions for that listed here:
http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?764
http://uipatternfactory.com/p=stacked-tabs/
http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?505

hope this helps? thnx.

On Dec 17, 2009, at 7:28 AM, Don Habas wrote:

> Jared, I have. Page 28 begins to address this. The application will
> definitely be broken out across several pages. It's more the
> question of whether this is the best approach:
>
> (follow-up page)
> "Earlier you've indicated that you have xxxxx. We're now going
> to ask you some further questions about your xxxxx."

::
:: Luke Wroblewski -[ www.lukew.com ]
:: Principal/Founder, LukeW Ideation & Design
:: luke at lukew.com | 408.513.7207
::
:: Blog: http://www.lukew.com/ff/
:: New Book: http://www.lukew.com/resources/web_form_design.asp
:: Book: http://www.lukew.com/resources/site_seeing.html
::

22 Dec 2009 - 3:08pm
kenton_hankins
2009

I recently created an online giving form using a jQuery plugin called
coda slider (http://jqueryfordesigners.com/coda-slider-effect/)
Combining this will some show/hide functionality helped me create a
very pleasant and easy to use form. You can play with the form at
https://www.valpo.edu/givetovu/artsandsciences/cd/

Hope this helps you and inspires some creativity.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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23 Dec 2009 - 8:16am
Jayson Elliot
2008

I gave the form a try in Safari.

The first field is not labelled, so I took a guess and entered a
dollar amount. Upon hitting the dollar symbol (because there was no
indication onscreen otherwise) I was slapped with a rather rude error
message. (there are ways to avoid this error with both frontend and
back end code)
Each field presented itself one at a time, so that as a user I had no
idea how much information would be expected of me, or how long the
form would take to complete.

There were a number of technical errors, but I will skip over that for
now.

The main concern I would have is that the form breaks users
expectations of being able to tab quickly through fields to a visible
goal, and does not provide a visible system status or adequately
prevent errors or help users recover from errors.

I would definitely put this through some usability testing and
refinement as soon as possible.

Jayson

Sent from my iPhone

On Dec 22, 2009, at 12:08 PM, kenton_hankins <kentonhankins at gmail.com>
wrote:

> I recently created an online giving form using a jQuery plugin called
> coda slider (http://jqueryfordesigners.com/coda-slider-effect/)
> Combining this will some show/hide functionality helped me create a
> very pleasant and easy to use form. You can play with the form at
> https://www.valpo.edu/givetovu/artsandsciences/cd/
>
> Hope this helps you and inspires some creativity.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=48008
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

23 Dec 2009 - 10:11am
kenton_hankins
2009

Thanks for looking at my form. I would however like to respond to
some of your constructive criticism.

"The first field is not labelled, so I took a guess and entered a
dollar amount. Upon hitting the dollar symbol (because there was no
indication onscreen otherwise) I was slapped with a rather rude error
message. (there are ways to avoid this error with both frontend and
back end code)"

Unfortunately this was a client must have, I could not have put a $
in the field before you entered the information to alert the user of
what is expected. The client did not care for inline form
verification either. They liked modals and that is what they wanted
to have.

"The main concern I would have is that the form breaks users
expectations of being able to tab quickly through fields to a visible
goal, and does not provide a visible system status or adequately
prevent errors or help users recover from errors.."

The form was broken up into groups in order to not overwhelm users
which was one of the main issues with the original form. Also I
tried to address this issue by having the groups labeled at the top
of the form (which you can click and navigate through) along with a
visible indication of which group you were currently at. This
certainly could have been addressed with a progress meter or some
other indication of how far along the user is in the form as per you
suggestion. This is definitely something we need to address and fix.

Something I did not mention about this form is that when it was
deployed, the total number of donations rose about 150% over last
year when and older form was used. This is my first major iteration
of the form and I obviously need to fix some issues. I hope others
learn from my mistakes.

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