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In making recommendations for a lengthy registration form, I am faced with the challenge of how to lay it out without confusing the user.

In the current implementation, there are many possible pages (not every user will see every page) with various numbers of input controls. The longest page has over 30 inputs, but the shortest has only 1! Nearly all of the information is required. Obviously, the organization is data-driven rather than user-centric. Not surprisingly, our users are often frustrated by the process and prefer to call in their information. It is also worth noting that the users do not fill out this form frequently, in fact, many only complete this form once in a lifetime.

I believe I need to even out the distribution of questions, and provide some indicator of progress that is at least somewhat representative of reality (the current breadcrumb menu is misleading). I have identified 6 logical sections, and 2-5 steps within each section, to better organize the form.

Now I need to facilitate conversations around layout. One person suggested we combine everything into one huge form. Another person suggested a long wizard, with each step as its own page. Based on input from this question, I had suggested we arrange it into tabs for each of those 6-7 sections and use an accordion control to expose steps in each section.

My question: Can anyone provide support for wizard vs scrolling (vs the hybrid idea)? I would prefer documented studies I can provide to decision makers, but anecdotal evidence for one thing or another is also welcome.

Please note: The business rules are NOT changing, so reducing the overall inputs is not an option. My question is limited to improving what I have.

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2 Answers

The form sounds more like a survey than a form ;)

Since you are dealing with variable questions per page, I would suggest going with a wizard-ish approach.

Divide the form into sections like you mentioned. In sections you can further divide the questions into smaller groups. You end with two levels of grouping:

  • A few (2-4) questions per group
  • A couple groups per section

The benefit of making small chunks is, the progress bar will be moving much quicker. Granted each section will have it's own progress bar and there will be multiple sections. You can make the section into flip cards or something. Incomplete sections are greyscale images, completed one are colored images. Turning the entire form into a journey.

If done correctly, the interaction and serendipity of the interaction will keep the user engaged enough for them not to feel the burden of the long survey.

I had faced a similar problem in my survey:Designing a different kind of survey experience

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Thanks! It actually is not a survey, but instead something that takes travel information for a trip the user has won. So I have a captive audience, they have to give all the info to go on the trip. –  ph33nyx Apr 25 '13 at 17:19
    
I understand it's not a survey, I meant it 'feels' more like a survey by the way the question was put. :) Since you have a great motivation for the user to finish all you need to do is keep the interaction going at a steady pace and show the progress. –  rk. Apr 25 '13 at 17:39
    
what do you think of having the groups (within their sections) in an accordion control that only allows one group to be visible at a time? –  ph33nyx Apr 29 '13 at 17:35
    
That would be similar to a wizard. You are essentially switching the tabs with accordions. I am not sure whether it is a good interaction (I click on answer and it closes the section and opens new section), just too many transitions for no apparent reason. –  rk. Apr 29 '13 at 17:49
    
Are you aware of any studies conducted on this subject? –  ph33nyx May 2 '13 at 13:37
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I think you need to stick with the multipage form. Just make sure to add a progress bar to set the user's expectations.

I like rk.'s idea to divide the questions on each page in sub-groups if possible.

You want to avoid at all cost to overwhelm your users, because that will just increase your abandon rate.

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