Forms that get users to complete

Imagine if we have a stakeholder say to you – “Hello, designer (that’s you). Our research team has discovered that customers who complete our 100 QUESTION FORM have a customer value of millions of dollars. In other words, if they complete this 100 QUESTION FORM, they are identified as a hot lead and what keeps us in business.”

100 Question form. Yikes.

By the way, they’re different questions – not just true/false. You now have to make a form that contains radio buttons, checkboxes, text fields, text fields for paragraphs.

That’s your goal: Get users complete this 100 question form.

You’re the designer — get to it!

In this post – we’re going cover some methods to get users to complete a 100 question form.

Real Use Cases

Anyone recognize any problems from the get-go?

I’ll save you the trouble. The problem is that long forms are boring. THEY SUCK.

You might go — This is a unrealistic and hypothetical scenario. Is it really? What real world applications are there that has 100 question forms?

  • Tax software.
  • Healthcare software.
  • Maybe your SASS company builds complex database tools that require hundreds of options to set up before it’s ready.
  • Maybe you’re a Consultation/Audit firm that prefers to get all the details before you help solve problems.
  • Maybe it’s for higher education – like a online SAT or Homework.
  • Maybe it’s really really shitty Online job application software.

I would say, maybe the use cases are real and this isn’t as hypotehtical as it seems.

Let’s jump into solutions.

Design-oriented solutions

So this project is yours – and you’re trying to figure out — how do you make this project successsful? How do you make a 100 question form as friction-free as possible so people complete it?

I’m going to go through the current solution that exists today.

TIP 1: break the questions into multiple pages/multiple steps.

This is a very common solution.

Essentially, rather than have a 100 questions on one page, you would break the questions into multiple pages.

You can also give a tiny motivational boost with a progress bar do they can visually see which step they’re in.

TIP 2: Chunking

We talked about breaking it into multiple pages/multiple steps. How exactly should you organize it?

In education, there is a concept known as chunking. It’s grouping like-minded content together so the user is spending less cognitive energy shifting between topics.

For example: asking all the financial questions in one step, then all the expenses questions in another step.

TIP 3: Load Low friction questions in front.

Load your questions up like a movie or TV series. Start strong with easy questions, then load up the harder questions in the middle, but end with a solid section last to nudge them of the finish line.

In other words — do it like The Office, where it starts really good, then the middle seasons get weird, but the last episode nailed it. Just don’t do it like Game of Thrones,

TIP 4: Modifying the copy to reduce time-to-completion.

Reword the questions. With a 100 question form, you want it to be snippy. If each question is like a 5th grade math problem about Johnny and his 15 watermeleons, your user is going to waste a lost of energy just trying to follow.

Look for ways to chop your sentences. So…
Instead of “In this section, we will ask you the following: Financial information, financial needs, and expenses.”

Go with: “In this section, we will ask you about your finances.”

TIP 5: Make the form easy to use.

No zig-zags. Avoid multi-column layouts. Single column. Data says left align too.

Use labels – not placeholder text. If it’s a phone number field – don’t use 555 inside the innertext. put it outside as a label or sublabel.

Have inline form field validation. Don’t give them an error after submitting.

Don’t use hover support text. Don’t use tip boxes either. Put support text in the sub-label.

Add the word (optional) inside of the ones that are optional. It’s 2019, but there are still people who don’t know that the red asterisk means mandatory.

Make your buttons clear Call to Actions. Is the button a Next section button, or a submit button? Or Next Page (2/3).

If it’s a important submission piece – add a ‘extra’ page where it reflects the content back to them – so they can double check themselves. For example: On Amazon, you add things to your shopping cart. Before checking, it asks if this is your final purchase.

TIP 6: Animation and pretty graphics.

Make it fun. Use an animation library so content swooshes when you get to the next page. Because you know… FUN! Right?

Or if you’re really ambitious — you can sex it up like SurveyMonkey/Typeform style navigation where it displays answers one at a time. For a 100 question survey, it can be exhausting though.

Make it graphical. Prettify it with font awesome icons, or replace some answers with visuals.

You’re only solving half the problem

What was the goal again?

The goal wasn’t to great digestable 100 person form. The goal was to get people to complete the form.

At the beginning of the post — I said this was a topic about User Experience. Not User Interface.

If you look at your job title and go, “Yep, all I do is design — no more, no less.” Then you might as well stop here, because you’ve achieved the bare minimum and you can move on with your life.

For those who prefer to go above and beyond —

User Experience-oriented Solutions

There’s a saying in business: “There are no right answers, there are only plausible answers.”

What are some mechanisms to increase the completion rate?

I want to start by sharing that this is all based on best practices in a business education environment, and your business situation may be different. We tested many many interventions to increase completion rate – and I am sharing them here.

TIP 1: Adding an ability to recall their response.

A Save button. If a user wants to stop now and save the rest for later, be sure to add a notification response as well. Send email, add a text message reminder. It’s not just one message — Put them on a notification funnel. Like dating, the money is in the follow-up.

To allow for frictionless follow-up, add a user creation in the beginning of the form – so you can capture their contact information early. Just be sure to add a field to say it’s okay to send them text messages – which is part of the law.

Save content in localstorage. If they accidentally X’d out of the site, the content doesn’t disappear, since it’s safely stored in their browser cache.

Break your form into multiple forms. I saw this from tools like Hubspot and Tax software. Their long forms are actually 8 forms in one, with conditionals to bypass form sections. If you complete the ‘user info’ form and leave – when you return, that form section is auto-completed and has already been submitted.

TIP 2: Add a help feature.

Knowledge base. With 100 question forms, anything that appears overwhelming — it’s one of the rare times where I lean towards CLEAN over CLARITY.

To make labels appear shorter, we used official terminology. Those in the know didn’t have a problem. But if you weren’t sure what it was asking, clicking on a link would open a new tab that pointed to a more detailed explainer. We also tracked these clcks so we know where people are struggling.

We also added a method for quick support. A chat feature would pop up if they were on a page for longer than our average. Or a email button. If you have the resources, it’s valuable and provides Just-in-time support.

TIP 3: Personalization.

Say their names back to them. You’re already capturing all of this data. Saying, “Hey John, this next section will talk about your expenses. You mentioned before that you spent $15,000 on boats, so lends find you a way to save you more money.”

TIP 4: Testing.

User testing. I think this is obvious as a designer.

A/B Testing. If you’re unsure why people are dropping in section 2 – explore randomization of the sections. Constant modifications and incremental gains is the battle here.

TIP 5: Tracking.

Heatmaps. Heatmaps lets you know where their mouse is going, and how far they go before they stop.

If you set up caching/partial submissions, you can add tracking data to know if they stopped at question 50 or question 51.

TIP 6: Finally, adding a motivator.

We spend a lot of time making things pretty or making them work. But it’s a separate phase to make users ‘want’ to do ‘the thing’.

Adding a content-only page of instructions. If the next 8 questions is about finances, give them a brief piece of content that explains what questions you’re asking, why, and what’s next. Studies about visualization (
) show that users are more likely to make it real if they can ‘see’ the end result.

Let users know how long it will take. It’s called respecting their time. Add it in parts of the instruction (this section should take 5 minutes), or add it as extra content below buttons.

Add little motivational text. An alert notification that says — “You’re 50% of the way there” is a positive way to nudge them forward. Udemy gives you which percentage of the course you’re in when you start each video.

Make the form fun. In one form, I made the submit button into a hand, so they can ‘high five’ to submit. The button was tied to a confetti animation. I would get emails sharing how fun that was.

The emails we also send – both the notifications and the completions had lots of humor in it.

If you want to go extreme – add pressure. Pressure is a great motivator, and can easily be abused – like what I’m going to explain to you now! We added a timer to our homework questions. It really put fire on their asses. The thing is — the timer was fake. It wasn’t something the team wanted – as the prior education lead was against timers. When he was fired, we put it in, and it boost completion rates from 45% to 75%. Suck an egg Lou, EX director of education.

Another extreme – take it away from them. In one of the courses I built – there was a mechanism where access was removed and their partial submission deleted after X days.


The maintaining process of increasing completion rates of your form is a project on it’s own.

But little tweaks can be multipliers, and bring your projects better success.

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