With overall college applications declining, it makes sense to ensure that you are not losing out on potential students through avoidable issues with your application forms. The way your form fields and questions have been designed may be causing applicants to abandon your form and not coming back to complete it.
The benchmark completion rate for forms across the Education sector is around 60% (after arriving at the page) which is not bad but there is certainly room for improvement, particularly if your own figure is below that.
So, how do you identify if your form has any problems and how do you improve it? This topline guide will help you get started.
1. Ensure you have the data
To properly identify where any issues may be in your forms, you need to have the right data. This generally means installing a form analytics package so you know when, where and why potential applicants are abandoning your form without completing. Fortunately, Anthology has a full integration with Zuko, Formisimo’s Form Analytics platform, so it is a simple matter to get the tracking up and running on your existing and future forms.
2. Identify your problem fields
Once you have tracked sufficient user sessions the first task is to understand where the log jams are in your form. Which questions are causing the applicants issues and negatively impacting their user experience? The main things to look at here are:
- Which form fields are the users abandoning on? (i.e. which was the last field they interacted with before they dropped out). Look at the volume of abandonments as this will indicate where you can make the biggest improvements but also analyze abandonment rate (there may be certain fields that a smaller number of users interact with but then have a high propensity to abandon).
- Which fields are users returning to the most and spending the most time on? If there is a field that applicants are returning to a lot, it may indicate that it is the cause of user frustration.
- Are there users who are trying to submit the form but can’t? If so, they will likely be having an issue with certain fields. Look at which questions they go back to after a failed submission as this will indicate where the problems lie.
3. Look through your users’ eyes
Once you are clear which form fields and questions are causing friction in the applicant journey, you need to look at your form through your users’ eyes. Take a test run to examine the problem fields in situ and formulate hypotheses as to why they are causing issues. Look for things like:
- Is it clear exactly what information you are asking the user to provide?
- Are there any usability issues with the form? Can all elements easily be seen? If you interact with a button or drop down, does it do what the user would expect? Double check everything on mobile as well as desktop versions as the user experience will be different for each.
- Are you asking for overly sensitive information that the user is unwilling to provide?
- Do you require data that the applicant does not have access to right now? If you are asking for social security numbers, etc., the user may have to leave to find it. Sometimes they won’t come back.
- Is your form broken? Does it simply not work when the user tries to move on?
- Are your questions visibly complex or intimidating? You may be scaring off applicants. Consider whether you truly need that information in that format.
If your users are having problems with specific common fields, you’ll want to look at these as well:
- Password – are your requirements too restrictive? If you are requiring too many special characters you might be putting users off and driving them away.
- Phone number – make it clear how you want the user to input the information. If you don’t accept spaces, parenthesis or international dialing codes then tell them the requirement upfront before they get frustrated by the interface.
- Zip Code – As with phone number fields, are you requiring them or blocking them from including certain elements they would expect (e.g. do you require them to enter their state here as well or do you capture that elsewhere).
- Email – do you block some domain names? You shouldn’t restrict your potential applicant base by doing this without a good reason.
4. Test and refine
After you have worked out what you think is causing the issue you need to test your hypothesis to see if it is the case. Make the alterations you think will mitigate the problems you have identified. Then check the data to see if things have improved. The simplest way to do this is to see if the abandonment rate for the offending field reduces once you have made the change. If you want to go a step further, you can A/B test your form, running two variants and seeing which one has the best completion rate.
If you successfully run these analyses and tests, you should now have internal benchmarks from which to develop further refinements and gradually improve the performance of your form over time.
For more in-depth advice on how to increase your form’s conversion you can read Zuko’s specialist Guide to Form Optimization and Analytics which contains tips on best practices, common form issues and form design.
Zuko is a form analytics platform designed to let websites understand when, where and why their users are abandoning their forms before completion. Zuko’s parent company, Formisimo, was founded in 2014 and has since helped improve the performance of hundreds of thousands of forms. Zuko is Formisimo’s next generation product with advanced features that allow users to segment the data by a multitude of audiences and is easy to install in most web forms.