How long can you hold someone’s attention online? Whatever you’re thinking, cut it in half, and half again. You’re probably still on the high end of the spectrum, but you’re getting closer. Websites and landing pages need to be understood in less than a second. If it’s not immediately clear and appealing, the modern online browser is already on to the next site (thanks StumbleUpon!).
But let’s assume your page does catch and hold their attention. If it’s a typical landing page, you’re trying to collect information that could lead to a sale. And you do that via an online form or survey.
The modern tech-savvy online shopper is all about instant gratification. Fast. Now. Immediately. Their average attention span is eight (8!) seconds (according to statistics verified by the Associated Press). That’s not a lot of time, so you’d better be selective about what you include. If you’ve done everything right up to this point, you have them poised and ready to submit their information.
Now’s not the time to mess it up with a long and overly complicated form.
Form fatigue can loosely describe the tendency of modern internet surfers to get tired, frustrated, irritated, and fed up with drawn-out submission forms. If it takes too long, or asks unnecessary questions, you’re going to lose them. They’ll bounce from your site without finishing and submitting their details. Poof! They’re gone.
Deciding what information to ask for might be subjective, but common sense should prevail. Keep it short, crisp, and only collect the crucial details. If you’re trying to grow your email list, would you ask visitors to submit their home address? If you’re collecting information about online shopping habits, would you ask them to list the brick & mortar stores they frequent?
Say it with me: No. No, you would not.
The less you ask for, the more likely you are to get it. It’s really that simple.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Eye-tracking software allows researchers to get detailed statistics about our internet reading habits, and the findings are very illuminating. The more words you include, the less people read them. According to “Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use”, subjects read only 28% of the words on a typical (550+ words) web page, while that number leaps to 49% on pages with 111 words or less.
The takeaway? Include and ask for only what you need. Limit the amount of words to the absolute essentials.
Long Pages vs Multiple Pages
When collecting information via forms and surveys, it’s not just the number of questions that can negatively influence your success rate.
You have two choices when it comes to either: you can have one long page with many questions and input fields (requiring people to scroll down as they complete it), or you can have multiple pages with only a few questions or input fields on each one (requiring people to manually click to the next page as they complete it). But which is better?
Well, the data isn’t as conclusive or plentiful as that relating to the number of words. However, we do know that slow loading times (the amount of time required for a page to appear) can increase your bounce rate. A one-second delay between pages can lead to 11% fewer page visits (according to the Tabb Group).
Beyond that, observational evidence suggests that people are wary of forms and surveys spread over multiple pages. They have no frame of reference for how long it is, nor can they see for themselves how much further they have to go to finish it. Form fatigue may creep in, and not realizing how near they are to the end, they give up and leave the site.
The Takeaway? It’s generally better to have a long page so visitors can see exactly how much they have left to do (keeping in mind the commandment to ONLY collect the crucial information). Or, if you’re dead-set on using multiple pages, make sure the load time is short, and clearly indicate somewhere along the top of each page how far they’ve come, and how much is left to do.
Form fatigue is real, and it can make or break your campaign. Fight it by keeping everything short, to the point, and if possible, on a single page.