Setting up analytics funnels for online forms
Before we explain which events and metrics you should track, let's try to describe a user journey on a web page with a form. Usually, my own experience is more or less like that:
- 1) When I land on a page with a form - be it a registration or a white paper download page - I spend a couple of seconds weighting pros and cons before I decide to fill it in. I check where the form will take me and how much time it may take me to complete it. Then I fill in the form, field by field and stumble upon questions I may not want to answer (i.e. my email), I don't remember (i.e. my personal ID number), I can't answer (i.e. I don't have a "customer number"!).
- 2) Then I tick one check box that I agree to terms I haven't even read, and untick another to disagree to get any newsletters that I will probably receive anyway.
- 3) Finally I hit a submit button. Instead of hearing fanfares I see the page painted red with form validation errors: "You can't..", "You didn't..", "You must...". I probably mutter something under my breath, say how stupid the company behind the website is (or, if I were my mom, I would blame myself and promise to never ever buy anything online again!) and try to correct everything.
- 4) So I fix my entries and submit, fix and submit, fix and submit until I successfully land on a Thank you page.
Needless to say, filling in forms isn't pleasant.
While completing a form, depending on its complexity, I might have produced from tens to hundreds of events and each of them is probably worth tracking: filled in and corrected form fields, form entries (what user put in a field or selected), hovered hints, validation errors, form submissions etc. UseItBetter Form Analytics actually tracks all these events automatically but you can use Google Analytics for basic form tracking too.
Splitting The Completion Of The Form Into Stages
The journey I described can be split, regardless of a form type, into four generic stages that are easy to track:
Here's an example:
Step 1. Evaluation
This stage starts when a user opens a page with a form (i.e. sign-up.html). Over the next couple of seconds the user will determine:
- The purpose of the page and the form ("Do I want to sign up?")
- Potential benefits ("What do I get from signing up?")
- The effort required to complete the form ("How long will it take to complete the form?")
- The investment ("Do I need to give them my email or pay anything?")
- The level of trust ("Is it secure to share my personal details?")
- ROI evaluation ("Is it worth signing up?")
Step 2. Engagement
Once users fill in the first (preferably required) form field, we know that their initial evaluation was positive but, unless the form is very simple, the assessment can quickly change as the users
- Find out, field by field, what exactly is required of them,
- Experience usability issues that slow down the process.
Step 3. Commitment
When the users click a button to submit the form they usually share personal details with you and commit themselves to follow your terms of service. If you lose them now, not only do you lose clients but you are also guilty of wasting their time.
Step 4. Immediate Success
In the most common scenario you should use the next page in the journey as your success event. If you analyse a sign in page in the checkout flow to understand what to optimise, do not measure against successful purchases but against successful logins.
However, when you finally start optimising your forms you should always measure them against your KPIs: - the conversion rate and/or financials. After all, removing credit card fields from a billing form is a certain way to both increase the number of completed forms and reduce payments.
What To Do Next Based On The Shape Of The Funnel?
The four data points that constitute your funnel will not give you definite answers what is wrong with your form but will give you a hint where to look for.
High Evaluation, Low Engagement
Such a sharp drop at the first stage of the funnel would only be acceptable for landing pages to which you drive traffic from external sources.
If you lose users at this stage, you probably need to focus on:
- Your value proposition (i.e. change pricing)
- How you present your offer (i.e. change copy)
- Simplifying the form (i.e. split it into steps, hide or even remove some fields)
And last but not least, revisit your advertising and user acquisition sources to get the audience that is genuinely interested in your offer.
If you would like to get more actionable insights from your analytics tools, analyse this segment using:
- Heat maps to see what content on the page attracts users' attention
- Paths to see where they came from and where they went to to better understand users' intent
- External traffic sources to eliminate low quality audience
High Engagement, Low Commitment
If you manage a complex form, i.e. a car insurance calculator or a credit application such shape of the funnel is common. Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do about it without getting more data. User testing with a small sample of testers is unlikely to give you any big insights as typically, each form field is responsible for a small part of the entire drop-out at this stage. To make matters worse, users often abandon forms due to something we call "user experience fatigue" - a cumulation of small problems that were easy for users to fix but annoying enough en masse to quit.
Here are some examples of common issues, to give you an idea of what can go wrong. The form may contain questions which users
- May not want to answer (i.e. income)
- May not remember (i.e. a personal ID number)
- May answer in a wrong format (i.e. a phone number - if you are curious, here are some common notations of phone numbers around the world)
- Can't answer because they do not have the information (i.e. they don't have the required customer number)
- Can't answer because their answer is not allowed (i.e. the store doesn't ship to North Korea)
- Answered but their answer was not acceptable (i.e. their income was too low)
High Commitment, Low Success
If you analyse a sign-in form and many users who submitted the form had to go into a forgotten password process (in that case it's likely that a successful sign-in event will occur in a new session) than such shape of the funnel means that something is clearly wrong with your form and you should spend some on QA and feeding more data into your analytics service. It is also a good idea to offer live chat support to users when they submit a form but fail to progress to the success page - you can help your users and quickly find out what problems they have so you can fix them once and for all. If you don't want to offer chat you can use an exit survey instead.
Common issues during visits when users submitted a form and yet didn't reach a success page:
- The users didn't check all required agreements or didn't fill in all required form fields, probably because they decided it's not worth sharing some details with you (i.e. a phone number) or they don't agree with some of your terms.
- The entered data may be recognised as invalid but validation alerts will not be helpful enough (usually to wrong copy or placement) for users to correct their entries
- The entered data may be in correct format and yet may not pass validation (i.e. incorrect password in a sign in form)
If you use UseItBetter Form Analytics you already have all necessary data to discover those problems. Pay special attention to:
- Captured validation errors and their prominence in failed and successful visits
- Form fields edited after a form submission
- Sections of your website to which users went afterwards (i.e. from the sign-in to sign-up)
A Well-Balanced Funnel
What can I say? This is your ultimate goal, isn't it? Not that you couldn't improve this funnel further but it's likely that you can gain more by investing more in your marketing efforts to pour more users into the funnel.
Capturing these four events and setting up a funnel for your form is a fundamental thing if you want to optimise your forms.
If you use Google Analytics or Adobe you will need to manually tag custom events triggered when users change the first required form field and submit the form. If you use Mixpanel, you will also need to tag page views (if you haven't already done that).
If you use UseItBetter Form Analytics (there's a free trial you can sign up for) you will have all the form-related events out of the box - not just the four events we discussed.