Still uncertain whether inline validation is worth it for you? Can inline validation make your businesses happy? How useful it is to you and your customers depends mainly on your form content. It may be distracting if overused or misused. Expect that you need to spend some time redesigning your form and copy to accomodate for inline validation. Else you may introduce new usability issues. Not to forget the development costs and testing the implementation which is vital for rich interactions as these.
When is inline validation useful
– Registration forms, where comparing user input to server data may prove useful to find out if a new domain name is available or password is secure enough.
– Unique fields such as usernames.
– Exceptionally long forms or forms with many fields, where filling in or returning (pogosticking) back to the page is experienced as very painstaking at the point that it risks several users bailing out of the process.
For longer forms it is better because it prevents the user from being overwhelmed if there are a lot of issues.
– Time-critical situations, where a user focus is dedicated entirely to a field and real-time feedback is essential and expected. Also if the user wants immediate assurance that data is valid or how to correct it as soon as possible.
– Data-critical situations. If a user needs immediate assurance that submitting is not is risky or input data cannot be undone. He might want to know the consequences of his input or selection before submitting the data. Can he still correct wrong data? Make it clear that undo is available or returning back to the form will be possible, for example by using progress indicators to show the user the form filling is a multi-step process with a confirmation step before final submitting. Or (like Amazon) writing under the submit button a text: “You will have the chance to review your order before it is finalized”.
– Forms with complex data and strict formatting. If users might doubt during or right after filling in a field, inline validation might be just what is needed to give that instant confidence boost and motivate the user he’s on the right track.
When is inline validation less useful
– Order forms. Typical order forms ask a user for contact and payment details, which is pretty standard stuff to the user. I don’t expect it to improve form completion time much, if at all.
– Tricky copy. With Inline validation error messages appear suddenly which is why they are usually placed next to fields rather instead of in between them. Some designs are limited in space hortizontally, so error messages need to remain short. Shortening error messages may potentially make them less clear and less usable. After all, error messages should not only say that something is wrong, but may also need to say what is wrong and how to correct it (sometimes with examples or formatting suggestions).
Consider your users and your form
Ask yourself the following:
– What information do I ask from the user in my form?
– Which fields might the user have trouble filling in?
– If you’re desperate for quick results, have you considered first making other general form improvements?
– Will the time/resources invested in inline validation outweigh the increase in conversion?
– Is there a risk it will decrease it? By definition for any design: less is more, meaning don’t clutter your design with elements which don’t add value.
Measuring the impact of inline validation
If you can implement inline validation, test it on a small audience and revert back to your old design easily, go right ahead. When you want to measure if it makes a quantitive difference (conversion rates) then A/B split testing will give you the answers you’re looking for. But remember to measure other KPI’s, especially if you expect no or not much effect on conversion.
Conversion is critical to businesses, and customer satisfaction often comes secondary. I predict it won’t make a difference to conversion rates of most order forms, but can benefit in other situations where inline validation is useful (e.g. sign-up forms where usernames are scarce or where there is a strict password policy or other complex fields) – discussed earlier in this article.
Consider the effect on other KPI’s like customer satisfaction and lead generation. User experience may improve or suffer. SEO, performance, compatibility may suffer and these play an equally important role in conversion. In some instances lead capturing may be incomplete and lead generation may decrease. Plan the A/B testing well.
In the case conversion/lead generation impact is insignificant, I highly recommend that you also measure the impact on customer satisfaction. This could be measured via a usability test, but preferably via a web questionnaire.
It could A/B test to measure differences in KPI’s such as:
o form or order completion satisfaction rating
o form completion difficulty
o company friendliness/helpfullness rating
o form completion time (subjective)