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Optimizing the 2012 Presidential Donation Forms

  |  April 10, 2012   |  Comments

A website optimization review for five U.S. presidential campaigns' online donation forms.

Election season gets longer and longer every term, forcing presidential candidates to acquire more money than ever to run a successful campaign. While big donors are the primary focus for candidates, donations by the mass public play a vital role in the election and are not overlooked. To maximize the contributions made by the everyday voter, candidates and their election teams need to optimize the donation forms on the presidential hopeful's website to ensure they are capturing the interest and pocketbook of all prospects.

Optimizing a candidate's donation form may not seem like a high priority but improving a candidate's form can have a huge impact on their bottom line. For example, according to NPR, President Obama collected 350,000 campaign contributions in February 2012. The average donation was $59. If we assume that 75 percent of those donations came through the website, it means that Obama racked up over $15.4 million in contributions.

Now let's assume that we can optimize his donation form and achieve a 10 percent increase in donation conversion rate. The numbers start to add up fast. Obama would increase his online contribution by over $1.5 million.

An extra $18.5 million dollars in campaign contributions can be generated over the course of a year just by optimizing the user's experience on the donation form! Obama could purchase a massive amount of signs with that extra cash!

Below, we'll examine the donation forms for each candidate: Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul, and show them how to improve their forms, increase their conversion rates and generate more campaign donations online.

 

Barack Obama

The original form: Obama has the best donation form of all the candidates. When glancing quickly (the way a user might), the dark form fields stand out making it easy for the user to start the donation process, and the hero shot shows the president in a way that is relatable to the masses. The form is streamlined asking users to submit necessary information only, and all the relevant information is at the top or above the fold. By putting the call-to-action button close to the form, the small print is pushed below, leaving less room for distraction.

Another element worth noting is the way that all the links in the masthead are removed. This eliminates the opportunity for users to click on another link and leave the money-making page. There's only one thing to do on this page: donate.

Our mocked up optimized form: As noted earlier, Obama's form is already in pretty good shape so we've just made minor adjustments. In the version on the right, you can see that a stronger, dominant headline has been added to help drive users to take action on the page. The president's signature has been added below his picture to give it a personal touch. And lastly, the call-to-action button color was changed from red to blue.

 

Actual

Optimized

Barack Obama form, control vs optimized
(Click to enlarge)

 

Mitt Romney

The original form: Romney and his team are actively testing! However, they only seem to be testing the hero shot and the small amount of copy below it. As our mocked up version makes clear - they need to think bigger.

The current form is just above average - it's nice and concise, the hero shots are all interesting and the referrer information field is hidden, which helps to eliminate confusion among average voters looking to donate. The most intriguing element is that in some of the tests a small video appears next to the form as opposed to a patriotic photo of Romney. I would be interested to know what the results are for that test.

Our mocked up optimized form: First and foremost, the form sections were rearranged. The credit card information was pushed to the bottom and replaced with the user's personal information. Asking for credit card information up front can lead to a higher abandonment rate. Second, the form fields were made darker so that they are easier to find and complete. Older voters are highly coveted, so it's important to make everything as easy to see as possible.

The hero shot was next on my list. It was updated, and like I did with Obama, Romney's signature was added below the photo and copy asking for donations. Spoiler alert: I like adding the candidate's signatures!

The mast was trimmed to remove competing calls to action and a stronger headline with instructional copy was added at the top of the form to help users easily understand what to do and how to do it.

The checkbox to "Confirm eligibility" section was removed and the call-to-action button was enlarged, made green, and moved closer to the form. The small print was pushed below the button and changed to indicate that the user confirms their eligibility when they click the donate button. The result is one less step in the form for users to complete, an easier to find call-to-action button, and less distracting small print.

 

Actual

Optimized

Mitt Romney form, control vs optimized
(Click to enlarge)

 

Rick Santorum

The original form: Santorum and his team do the best job of attempting to keep the pertinent information above the fold and the blue background makes it easier for users to see the form fields. They also include a phone number at the top of the page, giving users an outlet to seek answers if they are hesitant to fill out a web form. While the Santorum form achieves some of the basic premises we've discussed, there are several small changes that will improve its success rate almost instantly.

Our mocked up optimized form: The headline and copy at the top of the form has been updated and a hero shot of Santorum and his wife campaigning were added. The "Contribution Amount" section was rearranged changing the donation amounts from the control version's large -> small to small -> large. Don't scare off potential donors by putting a suggested amount of $2,500 as the first thing a user will see. The sticker shock of that number may lead to a high abandonment rate so it's best to start small and gradually work up to the $2,500 price tag.

Santorum's campaign accepts PayPal but doesn't include it in the credit card information section. The PayPal option was added as well as the phone number for older voters who may be hesitant to put their credit card information online.

The call-to-action button color was changed and was made larger as well. Noticing a trend here?

 

Actual

Optimized

Rick Santorum form, control vs optimized
(Click to enlarge)

 

Newt Gingrich

The original form: The best thing that I can say about Newt's campaign donation form is...that it works? There's not much to like here, I'm afraid. Hey, I tried.

Our mocked up optimized form: Gingrich has the largest site mast of all the candidates. The result is there are many competing calls to action on the page and it pushes the form fields (the important part) down the page below the fold. To fix that, a large portion of the mast was removed to get more of the form above the fold. A headline and some short copy were added to the top of the page and the form fields were reorganized to look better. A presidential-esque hero shot was also added with an uplifting quote from the candidate and his signature.

The phantom form field at the top that specifies "*Required Information" but wasn't actually clickable was removed. It's confusing and distracting to have an un-clickable form field at the top of the page.

The billing address section was hidden with the "Billing Address is the same as..." checkbox pre-checked. If the user's billing and home addresses are different, the billing address fields would be shown by unchecking the box. By hiding the billing address fields, the form appears much shorter and easier to complete.

Getting to the "Contribution Amount" section, and this may be a question for a campaign lawyer, but isn't the maximum amount someone can donate to a political candidate $2,500? If so, why is there an option to donate $5,000? If not, I'm just pointing this out because people might be weary of a site that asks for a $5,000 online donation.

The "Fundraiser ID" section was made dynamic to appear only if selected by the user to eliminate confusion.

The legal compliance section was moved below the call-to-action button and the checkbox was removed as well. The legal print was changed to indicate that the user complies to the shown statements when they click the button.

The call-to-action button was made larger and the copy was changed from "Submit" (which has a sense of finality to it) to "Donate."

 

Actual

Optimized

Newt Gingrich form, control vs optimized
(Click to enlarge)

 

Ron Paul

The original form: There are a few things that the Paul campaign form has going for it. All the links in the mast are removed, which focuses the user on one thing: donating money. The only other candidate to do that is President Obama. Paul makes good use of PayPal by putting the option in the "Payment Section," and the billing information section is also hidden by default unless the user specifies their billing information is different from their personal information. These are all good ways to streamline the experience for the user, but as you probably already guessed, there are some quick fixes that can be done to improve the success rate for Mr. Paul.

Our mocked up optimized form: We added all the best practices bells and whistles: a call-to-action headline and copy with a hero shot. The personal information section was trimmed to remove extra form fields such as "Middle Name" and "Suffix." If you haven't caught that yet - don't ask for unnecessary information. The remaining form fields were reorganized to keep most of the form above the fold.

In the "Additional Information" section there's a checkbox that reads "Do not show me in the donations ticker." This was removed as it may not be particularly clear what the donation ticker is to everyone. (The ticker is on the home page and shows recent donations.) By removing this we can reduce user anxiety about putting their information into the form.

The small legal print was moved below the call-to-action button and the button color was changed from light grey (almost the same color as the background of the page!) to red.

 

Actual

Optimized

Ron Paul form, control vs optimized
(Click to enlarge)

Credit: Optimized donation forms mocked up by Justin Martin and Nadia Sawir.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Boyle

John Boyle has over 15 years of experience in e-commerce and online marketing. As a digital marketing and optimization consultant at Webtrends, he creates online marketing strategies designed to improve website monetization and improve customer experiences. He has worked with such clients as Kimberly Clark, Microsoft, Art.com, and many others.

Prior to joining Webtrends John worked for several e-commerce and lead generation startups that saw extensive growth earning three Puget Sound Business Journal Fastest Growing Private Company Awards and an Inc. Magazine Fastest Growing Private Company Award.

When not working to make the Internet a better place you can find him spending time with his wife, working out at Crossfit or cheering on the Minnesota Twins and Vikings.

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