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Is there a general number of fields where people will likely be turned off and not even fill things out? When does frustration begin to set in in a long form with a lot of required fields? I understand if this question is too general.

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In some contexts, what constitutes a "field" needs to be further specified. For example, is an address one field ("Address"), two fields ("Street and number", "zip code, city and country"), or six ("Street", "Number", "Apartment/Room/Floor", "zip code", "city", "country")? –  O. R. Mapper Jul 29 at 7:04

4 Answers 4

up vote 53 down vote accepted

It is a general question that can be answered with a general answer:

One more than is actually required by the business is too many.

In other words, make sure all the required fields are essential to allow the user to progress. All too often, the required fields are only required in the sense that someone on the business side wanted the field, rather than it being needed.

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Yes on one end of the scale is login at he other is an online tax return form –  Toni Leigh Jul 28 at 16:06
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And don't just consider fields that are actually required by the business. Consider fields that are actually required by the business right now. Much of the 'required' content can be gathered at a later date in different means. –  JonW Jul 28 at 18:45
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@JonW just make sure that if you're updating an existing system you test it thoroughly after making fields optional/input elsewhere so you don't have some part of the code blowing up because it assumed they could never be null. –  Dan Neely Jul 28 at 19:28
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While, conversely, the minimum amount of required fields would be that set of fields that makes the input useful. E.g. A login screen should have exactly two fields, username and password, and both should be required. Any more is too many, any less is too few. One should always strive for minimalism. More fields means less accurate data, less system usage, and fewer users. Fewer fields provide more accurate data, and more usage. There's plenty of great articles on the Internet about this behavior, but it basically comes down to average human laziness. –  phyrfox Jul 29 at 6:34
    
The number of fields people are willing to fill out is also connected to the task they are performing (as also touched on by ColinSharpe). If a user is applying for a loan they are more likely to handle more fields than when they are logging in. As said in this answer: only as many as are really needed. –  Kim Does Jul 30 at 9:13

This post from Hubspot shows some interesting results for the number of form fields vs converstion: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6746/Which-Types-of-Form-Fields-Lower-Landing-Page-Conversions.aspx

enter image description here

They then (partially) break this down by input type.

It's interesting to note that conversion appears to go up with from 1 to 3 fields and doesn't go back below the conversion rate of a single field until 6 or greater. If I was guessing at the reason it might be either that customers perceive utra-simple forms to be trivial and so not worthy of filling in or it might be that the products that are asking for very few form fields to register are not attractive (trivial or beta splash pages?).

Another interesting find in that post is how badly select boxes affect conversion. My theory about this is that a customer's perception of the complexity of a form (rather than just length) is crucial in their decision to fill out the form or not and select boxes appear as a complex input type to users. AutomatedChaos pointed out I'd read the scale of that graph wrongly.

Anyway while the general principle of less-is-more almost certainly holds true for forms it would seem to be a takeaway from this that I wouldn't start getting overly worried until you have more than 6 fields.

"When does frustration set in?" This depends a lot on how the customer feels towards your brand and what their motivation is. If the goal of the form is to help the UN save cute kittens then they'll tolerate more work than if it's a customer feedback survey from Walmart. Equally high motivation will carry them through a long form - if they're trying to claim a winning lottery ticket for millions of £££ then you can make your form as long and painful as you like and whoever has the winning ticket will happily fill it in then thank you profusely.

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I wouldn't be worried too much about the select boxes: the scale is a bit misleading and there is actually a 2% difference between the highest (1 select box) and the lowest (4 select boxes) conversion rate. More general, it is difficult to draw conclusions from these graphs without knowing the actual sample size and distribution. –  AutomatedChaos Jul 29 at 6:16
    
Doh... Caught out by the old non-zero-y-axis trick again. All the other graphs on that page start at zero - frustrating. Thanks for highlighting it. –  edeverett Jul 29 at 6:52
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This is a great example of the sort of analysis that one should be doing via A/B test on their own property. What's true for hubspot might not be true for you -- which is to say, use hubspot's example as a framework for doing your own research, but don't just blindly assume that their numbers will prove true for your audience as well. –  Frank Farmer Jul 30 at 0:05
    
Absolutely. Before taking away too many insights from the Hubspot numbers you should try to understand where the numbers come from. And before doing any A/B testing we should have strong and good hypothesis based on experience and accumulated experience of the design community. Test good designs –  edeverett Jul 30 at 8:54

This depends on what kind of information you're trying to gather.

In general, the correct number of required fields is the absolute minimum number of fields required to make a record usable.

If you are collecting information about a new user in your system, you may need only an email/username and a password. Without a username or password, a user record can't be used to identify a user and is useless.

If you are collecting information about a photo upload, you may only need the photo itself (no caption, tags, etc). Without a photo, a photo upload record has no meaning.

Also keep in mind that just because a field is "required" doesn't mean users will put meaningful data there.

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Here is a good piece on the required marked vs. optional marked fields:

http://uxmovement.com/forms/why-users-fill-out-less-if-you-mark-required-fields/

Marking the few optional field takes the onus of the user so much, and aesthetically having numerous red stars next to your fields does not make for an easy to absorb form.

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I agree completely with this alas, in my experience, users do not. It appears we've created an anti-pattern that users now expect. In user testing we've found people to be confused when they don't see required field markings. Ugh. :) –  DA01 Jul 28 at 17:15

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