The Case of the Underperforming Form and the Importance of Qualitative Research
When a company’s business form wasn’t meeting expectations, the solution called for genuine customer understanding
A client wanted us to fix their online form because many of their business customers were not using it or were abandoning the form altogether before submitting it.
The client had already tried adding and removing form fields based on business owner recommendations and had A/B tested each version with several styles and positions of elements.
Still, the form underperformed.
STEPS TO UNDERSTAND THE ISSUE
We ensured that users without a mouse could easily tab through the form fields in the correct order as presented on the screen and only allowed numbers in the ZIP code field.
Apply UX Heuristics/Best Practices
We reviewed the form and added contextual error messaging, a larger form field target for touchscreen users, and auto-forwarded the user’s cursor to the next value. We validated the form field only after the user had moved to another field.
Conduct User Testing
By testing users with a simple “Please fill out this form” task, we found that some information on the form was considered personal; customers needed to know why it was being requested. Also, some information was not readily available to users, so we added explanatory text at the beginning to inform users what they would need to complete the form, how long it would take, and that the form was secure.
HOW OUR TEAM TOOK IT EVEN FURTHER
We conducted contextual inquiries by observing the business customers at their office desks as they processed orders. Our researchers noticed that many never used the form because it was easier for them to scan their invoice and send it as a PDF to their rep. This obviously didn’t solve the usability of the form.
Since we were observing the customers’ entire workflow for the day, we discovered that no form was necessary at all. Instead, by adding a simple API to another third-party platform the customers used for everything else, the data could be sent to the client automatically and behind the scenes as a larger part of the order process.
A HOLISTIC PICTURE REVEALS THE RIGHT SOLUTION
So obviously a company can create a usable solution, but it’s only by observing the problem and surrounding processes in context that we can discover the best solution.
A key investment in this user-based research — before diving into the next stages of design and development — can help you, your team and your company avoid countless design and development hours filling out the wrong form.