Multi-Step vs. Single-Step Forms??

27 Jul 2005 - 7:33am
9 years ago
2 replies
1635 reads
Todd Chambers
2005

Does anyone have any experience or know of any user research that has
studied the effectiveness of "single step" web forms vs. "multi step" forms?
I am responsible for redesigning the donation section of a major
international non profit organization, and I have suggested breaking down
the donation (form) process into several bite-sized pages. The pages look
like this:
(1) Donor information
(2) Payment Information
(3) Confirmation
(4) Thank You

I have always stood behind this multi-page process and base my confidence on
years of testing donation forms with other companies (both for-profit and
non-profit). However, I am receiving some internal pressure to move back to
the older "single-step" form model based on the assumption that fewer clicks
is ALWAYS better. My knee-jerk reaction to this request was one of horror,
but I have since noticed that several "big-time" players in the non-profit
world have gone to this single-step process even if it means two or more
columns loaded with form fields and requires the user to scroll both north
and south (back to the top to begin the second column and down again to
submit).

Any thoughts or directions to findings would be greatly appreciated.

___________________________BKV

Todd Chambers
Interactive Art Director
Bennett Kuhn Varner, Inc.
2964 Peachtree Road, Ste 700
Atlanta, GA 30305
404.233.0332 ext. 182
www.bkv.com

Comments

27 Jul 2005 - 9:53am
Coryndon Luxmoore
2004

Many years ago when building a online application form for financial
accounts we tested two different approaches to filling out the
applications. A wizard style 4-5 items per page and a all in one style
20-40 questions per page. The audience was targeted at novice - semi
advanced internet users (since this was '97 they are potentially even
more novice than today's users)

The long forms won hands down even though we had a progress bar etc.
people preferred the long form because they knew what was required and
the wanted to get it all done in a single shot.

> (1) Donor information
> (2) Payment Information
> (3) Confirmation
> (4) Thank You

Your steps look like there is only two steps that can be combined
anyway so does it really make that much difference to the complexity?

--------------------------------------------
Coryndon Luxmoore
Interaction Designer

coryndon (at) luxmoore (dot) com
---------------------------------------------

On Jul 27, 2005, at 9:33 AM, Todd Chambers wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Does anyone have any experience or know of any user research that has
> studied the effectiveness of "single step" web forms vs. "multi step"
> forms?
> I am responsible for redesigning the donation section of a major
> international non profit organization, and I have suggested breaking
> down
> the donation (form) process into several bite-sized pages. The pages
> look
> like this:
> (1) Donor information
> (2) Payment Information
> (3) Confirmation
> (4) Thank You
>
> I have always stood behind this multi-page process and base my
> confidence on
> years of testing donation forms with other companies (both for-profit
> and
> non-profit). However, I am receiving some internal pressure to move
> back to
> the older "single-step" form model based on the assumption that fewer
> clicks
> is ALWAYS better. My knee-jerk reaction to this request was one of
> horror,
> but I have since noticed that several "big-time" players in the
> non-profit
> world have gone to this single-step process even if it means two or
> more
> columns loaded with form fields and requires the user to scroll both
> north
> and south (back to the top to begin the second column and down again to
> submit).
>
> Any thoughts or directions to findings would be greatly appreciated.
>
> ___________________________BKV
>
> Todd Chambers
> Interactive Art Director
> Bennett Kuhn Varner, Inc.
> 2964 Peachtree Road, Ste 700
> Atlanta, GA 30305
> 404.233.0332 ext. 182
> www.bkv.com
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Group!
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>

27 Jul 2005 - 10:34am
david gee
2004

Todd Chambers wrote:

>I have always stood behind this multi-page process and base my confidence on
>years of testing donation forms with other companies (both for-profit and
>non-profit). However, I am receiving some internal pressure to move back to
>the older "single-step" form model based on the assumption that fewer clicks
>is ALWAYS better. My knee-jerk reaction to this request was one of horror,
>but I have since noticed that several "big-time" players in the non-profit
>world have gone to this single-step process even if it means two or more
>columns loaded with form fields and requires the user to scroll both north
>and south (back to the top to begin the second column and down again to
>submit).
>
>
I've always found that people prefer to know upfront how much
information they need to fill in, particularly if you are asking for
info that may involve offline tasks (getting out your credit card, etc).
I also do not understand at all why it would ever be necessary to design
a single-page form which would involve scrolling up and down to
complete. If you can design four pages that don't require navigating
back/forward, designing a single page form is often as simple as
stacking these four on top of each other.

Taking a closer look at your breakdown:

(1) Donor information
(2) Payment information

There is probably substantial overlap in some of these fields. For
example, you may collect the donor's name and address in the first part
of the form. In the second part of the form, you need to collect the
name on the account being billed and the billing address. Adding a
checkbox on the second part of the form something like "billing
name/address is same as above" eliminates a lot of work for the user.
It's true that you could do this if the form was over 2 pages, but being
able to see the original information adds a lot of confidence in the
transaction.

(3) Confirmation
(4) Thank You

I'm not quite sure how to read this. There are 2 possible flows here:
user enters info, hits the submit button, payment is processed, and
"confirmation" here means you're showing a page confirming the
transaction went through. If this is what you mean, you do not want
seperate confirmation / thank you screens. Thank the user by allowing
him to complete the process as quickly and painlessly as possible. If
this is the case, your screen flow looks like this:

1. Collect Information -> 2. Confirm processing (with tracking #) and
thank user (with links to next logical steps)

The other way to read this is that "confirmation" means re-displaying
the information from the previous page/s in a read-only view, with the
option to go back and change info if necessary. If you're doing
real-time credit card processing, this is probably a good idea, and
pretty standard across major sites, even though it adds excise to the
task. If this is the case, your screenflow would look like this:

1. Collect information -> 2. Request confirmation of collected
information -> 3. Confirm transaction (with tracking #) and thank user
(with links to next logical steps).

Even in this 2nd case, with a bit of scripting, it may be possible to
have a section on the first page displaying the information entered (ala
"live preview" on many blogging sites), which would again bring the page
count back down to 2.

david

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