A guide to webform testing best practice
Think about the last time you had to sign up for an account online to buy a new pair of shoes, or you had to renew your license at the DMV online. Most likely, you used a web form to engage with these websites. Online businesses rely heavily on the revenue that comes from users completing transactional workflows. Designing web forms may simply be a fact of life for many websites.
Some of the benefits of online forms is that they are more flexible than paper forms, and you can flag user errors, hide or show certain form fields, or take users to different pages depending on how they responded. But, if users feel that the workflow is too difficult, and they can’t complete the form, users can become less satisfied, less likely to adopt your product, or less likely to purchase from your business. That’s why it can be important to conduct some user testing on your web forms. There’s one caveat, however.
Most likely, your web form design requires the user to enter their personal information, such as first name/last name, address, phone number, and so on. In user research, we are obligated to protect the user’s private information. This is even more true now that users have very strong concerns about their online privacy. Requiring users to enter their private information may overshadow their attitudes towards the webform experience you want to test.
The key to webform field testing is providing dummy information
If you have to ask users to test a web form on your live site, you can often times ask the tester to enter in alternate information (and not their personal information).
By asking users to use alternate information (not their own personal information) when they are test your web form design, if it’s a live site, you can ensure that the tester will not create a real web foot print (new account, new purchase, etc.) While some people may think that using dummy information is not as authentic as using their own, often testers can relate to the content types to see how it’s relevant to them. (For example, entering in a first name feels the same whether it is your own name or someone else’s name).
Use prototypes or mock-ups
You can use prototypes to simulate the web form experience, or even the experience on your live site. This can be most beneficial because the user can see the whole experience and identify usability issues, without using their sensitive information. While this works well in most cases, sometimes it might be too complex to create an old mockup of a live website.
Testing on a live website
Specific to UserZoom, there are two key approaches that you can use to test a transactional experience.
Task-based navigation studies
Task-based navigation studies are beneficial with both prototypes and live websites, so that you can see how a participant interacts with the website in real time. These types of studies work best with specific, directed tasks that you have defined with your users and stakeholders ahead of time.
True intent studies allow you to evaluate the post-task perception of a real website experience on the same page where it is happening. It is best to intercept users after they have completed their transaction, as to avoid interrupting them in the middle. While they are effective for collecting in-the-moment feedback, it’s not as visceral as seeing a video of the user completing the experience.
Asking participants to opt-in
In any study where you want to ask users to complete a transactional workflow, it’s important to make users aware that they are entering in data into open form fields, what will be asked of them and why.
Here’s an opt-in approach to inform participants:
Web form testing is important for websites that are transactional in nature. They are beneficial to learn about where users get stuck or if there is a step in the workflow that they might drop off. No matter which method you choose to conduct the test, webform field testing studies are most effective when testers understand the purpose of the test, and that they do not have to give up their personal information to provide feedback.
In her previous role at UserZoom, Clara was one of the first members of the UZ Professional Services team. She is now a Sr. UX Researcher at Change Healthcare. Alongside her UX book collection, Clara has a small collection of cookbooks from different countries. Clara grew up in Hong Kong, has lived in several countries, and developed a taste for global cuisine with a different dish at her table every week.