I'm working on a project in government that requires users to fill in an online form and make payment for the service online, but that's not the end — users then have to do some stuff in the real world, including downloading and printing some now-finalised documents, and taking them to the appointment they've booked as part of the online application process.

The problem: in online transactions (most typically shopping), payment is almost always the last thing you do, to the point where the research participants we've tested with tend to switch off when they see that their (pretend) payment has been successful. It's vital that we retain users: while they might think the 'conversation' is over after payment, we know it isn't, and there's some important information after payment that we don't want them to miss.

(NB: it would be inappropriate to put the information before payment, because (a) it's not relevant yet, being about what they need to do next, and (b) users can change their form details at anytime up to making payment successfully, so we don't want them to download any documents until the details they've given can no longer be changed)

Are there any examples out there (ideally good ones, but I'll take what I can get) of online processes where payment is not the last thing? Or any tricks to stop people from dropping out? This isn't e-commerce in its usual sense; the experience will be worse for everyone (customers and government) if customers pay but don't see the information after that about what they need to do next.

Thanks in advance :)

3 Answers 3


Amazon's process keep you informed of both the entire process and the step you are currently completing :

enter image description here

A suggestion could be :

  • to inform your users at the beginning of the process and also before they start the payment that there will be another key step after that
  • to always display an Amazon-like path and current step
  • to send an email to your users once the payment has been completed (right away or after a few minutes if there is evidence that they have not completed the last step) with an easy and possibly one-click action to help them complete the last step, such as a "print your documents" link.

Railway companies sometimes do a great job here. Here is an example email you receive when you buy an e-ticket that needs to be printed. The extract says "You chose the e-ticket service. Click on "Imprimer" to download and print your ticket [...]". enter image description here

  • This is a great answer - and travel is a great source for patterns/process that you are looking for due to the additional details, confirmation, etc that are included. Go buy a few tickets! I'll look for some other good examples.
    – jvform
    Jul 10, 2014 at 21:04
  • Thanks @Pierre. We are already doing several of these, but this is well-phrased advice. I have some residual concerns about 'just' an email notification, because the temptation can be to think "Oh, I submitted the form successfully!" and switch off from what the rest of the email is telling you to do. Working on a progress indicator that encompasses the online form and the other steps too. Thank you! Jul 14, 2014 at 11:08

One way is to show the users a message in bold text (probably even using highlighting) that the process is not completed and there is still a couple more things to be done.

Secondly, if you think warning message might spook the user, you could display a progress bar at the top of the page from a step before the payment step until they complete the whole process at the last step which would be after payment step. Make sure that the progress bar is evidently visible to the user. If you notice similar kind of progress bar is shown even on the amazon shopping site, its just that they are displayed in a very subtle way, wherein for your case you might have to display it more evidently.


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  • Thank you @Vinay. We are looking at doing this now — I think surfacing that 'not completed' stage stuff is really crucial here. Jul 14, 2014 at 11:09

users then have to do some stuff in the real world, including downloading and printing some now-finalised documents, and taking them to the appointment they've booked as part of the online application process.

Wouldn't that be similar to Print at Home Tickets that most ticketing agencies and theme parks offer? E.g. Legoland California's process is like this

Shortly after purchasing your Print at Home tickets, you will receive an email confirmation with a summary of your order including a PDF attachment containing your tickets (note this process can take up to 90 minutes).

I think the concept of Print-At-Home tickets is known to many users, so maybe you could try a similar wording in order to have them "get" the idea of having to perform an additional task.

  • .@msparer, you are right that they share some commonalities. However the impetus is very different here! When you buy tickets to an exciting event or experience, you are looking forward to going and you know that the buying is leading to that big event. When you fill out a government form to apply for a service, you expect them to get in touch with you when something needs your attention. But here, you need to do more first, before anything else will happen! Which is not usually the case when buying tickets, etc online. Thank you though. Jul 14, 2014 at 11:12

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