Are you asking for too much information on web forms?

Long web forms can deter customers, and one way to reduce the workload is to remove unnecessary fields and questions.

Your customers will understand that a certain amount of information is required – to complete a transaction, to register etc.

However, it’s important to realise the drawbacks of being seen to ask too much of users. These are:

  • Too many fields / pages in a form will lead a certain amount of users to abandon the process, costing lost sales and leads.
  • People will also drop out if they encounter questions which they consider irrelevant. For example, they may wonder why their date of birth is needed to order a kettle.
  • Even if people complete the form, if it felt like hard work to them, they may be less likely to make repeat purchases.

The Question Protocol

But how do you decide which fields are necessary and which can be left out? For this, the Question Protocol, (as explained by Lovehoney’s Matt Curry in our recent Ecommerce Checkout guide) is very useful.

It’s a way to decide which fields are actually important to the process, and which are unnecessary. It also has the benefit of keeping company politics away from decision making.

For every question you ask during checkout, ask the following:

  • Why does the business need this information?
  • Who uses the information and what for?
  • Which users need to provide the information?
  • How will the business check that the information is accurate?
  • How will the business keep the information up to date?

Matt adds a follow-up question: How frequently is the information provided by users? If people aren’t bothering to complete a particular form field, then why include it?

An example of this is the field many sites still use, asking people where they heard about the business in the first place.

Yes, this may have been useful to the marketing department so they can tie a visit into a particular press or TV campaign.


However, most of the answers to such questions can now be found in analytics. If a customer came from an email campaign, or through search, then the figures are there to see.

Moreover, and especially when presented in long drop-downs as above, users will frequently ignore this field. Or, if forced to complete it, they may not take it seriously. I tend to pick the first answer just to get past it.

All of which means that the information may not actually be useful in the end anyway.

Other examples of unnecessary form fields include date of birth and gender. These are not required to complete checkout, though they may be of use to the marketing department.

ASOS, for example, asks for a date of birth. It does at least explain why, providing an incentive for people.

asos dob

Perhaps this works for ASOS. It could be that the marketing benefits of such information outweigh the potential abandonments. However, businesses should be aware of the risks when adding extra fields to checkout.

Our new Marketer’s Guide to Form Optimisation, produced in association with Fospha, is free to download. 

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