Thursday, 20 August 2015

Is your donation page as simple as the competition?

I spend a lot of time thinking about online donation forms. They’re a key part of the supporter journey - the place where an engaged individual becomes a donor and provides financial support to an organisation.

These forms are also a place of complexity. Our desire to be flexible, and concerns about fraud, call for the donor to invest time and energy in making their gift. Consequently, momentum can be lost. I’ve seen donation pages where only 10% of people complete the process.

You can spend a lot of time and money studying and optimising the performance of your donation form. But what if you have no budget?

One way to look at a donation form is in terms of the effort it requires from the person using it. A form that takes longer to fill in is more likely to be abandoned by a donor in a hurry. A form with more options to complete is more complex, and more likely to leave the user confused.

This got me thinking… can we measure the simplicity of our forms? Wouldn’t it be useful to benchmark our performance in this area?

A simple way to measure form simplicity is this: how many boxes do we ask a user to fill in? It’s crude, I know. In the real world complexity is determined by a variety of factors such as language, layout, accessibility and typography. But this approach captures something of the effort required from the user.

So I picked a smattering of website donation forms... and I counted the fields. It was refreshingly primitive. Here are the results:

Organisation No. fields on donation forms
Sheffield University 45
Comic Relief 26
Cardiff University 24
Just Giving 22
UCCF (via CAF) 21
MQ 19
(Tests conducted in June/July 2015. The details of my approach are at the end of this post)

What can we learn from these results?

It seems that there’s a lot to you can do to impact the complexity of a donation form. Sheffield University asks for twice as much information as UCCF!

It’s oh-so-easy to let your donation form grow.

“Our Canadian donors want a tax receipt”
“Can we collect a phone number in case of problems?”
“Let’s get them on our mailing list while we have their attention”

I’ve had those conversations. They’re driven by admirable motivations: to help supporters, to aid efficiency, etc.

These fields all have value. But what we forget is that their absence has value as well.


The boring details

I counted all fields, even those that were not required. Why? Well I think the presence of the field adds complexity - a user has to read it to check if the information is required. Also required fields are often denoted in a subtle way, which makes them harder to scan
For practical reasons I only assessed the pathway for a single credit card donation, not the pathway for setting up a regular gift.

I counted the fields seen by a user without an existing account, as I anticipate that’s the most common situation. I’m aware that some websites, such as Just Giving, will be handicapped by this approach.

There’s probably room for some sort of metric here: allocating each type of field a difficulty score, and giving rewards where autocomplete and default fields are used.

Thanks to Jon and Edgar for form recommendations.