One-Step vs. Multi-Step Forms
Updated: Jun 12
This is a guest blog and is posted with permission from Sarah Braker of Firefly Partners.
When it comes to forms for donations, email signups, or advocacy actions, are one-step or multi-step forms better? This is an age-old question that I’m asked time and time again. The right answer is that there is no right answer. What works for one organization might not work for another, and as we explain in our post about Google Optimize, the only way to choose the right path toward more conversions is to test, test, and test again.
As you set up, run, and monitor your experiments, here are a few factors that might impact what forms are right for your organization.
One-step forms leave little to the imagination. Because everything is in a single step, those going through the process will know exactly what information you need from the start.
With a multi-step form you’re only asking people to complete a few fields in each section. In most cases you’re asking for information they expect to give, but they won’t know exactly what you’re requesting until they move to the next section. If you go this route, we recommend that you indicate the current and upcoming steps so people know where they are in the process.
Number of Fields
With one-step forms you have to think about length. If everything is on one page you need to be thoughtful about how much scrolling is required. With donations, for example, you will ask for the amount, the frequency, billing information, credit card information, and in many cases, honor or memorial tribute details. That might be a lot for a single page.
As mentioned earlier, multi-step forms give you the flexibility to separate fields into distinct sections. But this doesn’t mean you should populate your form with tons of questions – no matter what, you only want to ask the questions you absolutely need the answers to. It’s also critical to test your multi-step forms on mobile devices to make sure that they’re just as easy to navigate on smaller screens.
As far as form design goes, no matter if you use a single-step or a multi-step form, we recommend removing the navigation and any other links that could distract your audience. Still, there are some elements like photos, videos, and impact statements, that could prove inspirational to your audience. With a multi-step form you would have more real estate to test these additions.
With a one-step form, the length issue might mean you have to minimize aesthetics for the sake of functionality. But simpler forms would likely translate better on smaller mobile devices, so digging into device reports in Google Analytics to learn about your audience might push you in this direction. Whether one-step or multi-step, it’s critical to test your forms on mobile devices.
Number of Clicks
Data is critical to making improvements on a form. One very useful report is process abandonment, which tells you how far people get in the process of completing your form before they give up. With a multi-step form you can see which steps have the highest abandonment rate, which can help you make data-driven improvements.
That being said, in order to achieve a conversion, you have to get someone to click the button. One-step forms make this easy because they eliminate the need for multiple clicks. With a form that lives on a single page you know at the very least that requiring more than one click isn’t scaring people away. To track abandonment rate for a one-step form, you could implement Google scroll depth monitoring to help you determine at which part of the form your users are falling off.
Collecting “Additional Information”
One strategy some organizations use is to have very simple one-page forms. For example, asking for only a name and email address for email opt-in. Organizations then follow up with an email, or link the submit button to another form, where subscribers have the option to enter more details, share demographic information, or to select the specific content they are interested in. This multi-step process gives you a deeper understanding of your email list, donors, or action takers.
While you won’t get 100% participation in the follow-up form, the upside to this approach is that the initial step is very simple and requires little effort. So even if they don’t complete the additional form, you’ve still captured the essential details.
As you read through these options and scenarios, you may be thinking to yourself that you’re no closer to understanding the right choice. That’s exactly where you should be. Anyone who tells you there’s a single right approach is not taking into account the specificity of your organization, your goals, and your audience. While these ideas can help you ask the right questions, and consider your options, testing is the only way to make decisions about forms based on user data and conversion stats. If you have more questions about forms or want to set up experiments on your organization’s website, reach out to us today.