Last week I filled in my official census form online. It was the first time we could complete the census online and they’re hoping up to 15% of the population would choose this format. It was a pleasant experience and I was impressed at all the usability and accessibility issues they’d thought through. I’ve been thinking about online forms and also how in statistics there’s a lot of thought which goes into survey design.

Often, questions which are easy to answer are put at the beginning – so people get into the momentum of filling in the form, rather than asking the trickier questions first which get them to think more. On the other hand, you don’t want your key questions of interest to be so far into the survey that you lose their attention, focus or participation – that the barrier to entry seems too high.

Telephone surveyors leave all the demographic questions to the end of the survey – you’re far more likely to give them basic information about yourself after you’ve expressed your opinions on politics, products or companies.

How does this relate to blog comment forms?

Last week I adapted mine.

I turned the comment box into something like a post it note – to give attention to the box, to make it feel like they’re adding a note.

I wanted it to feel light, and not like a cumbersome form they have to fill in.

I decided to put the name/email/website bits at the bottom as an experiment to try and make it feel like less of a form-filling exercise and putting the focus back on making the comment.

I changed it to try and reduce any percieved barrier to entry. Even though comment forms are usually quick to fill in, sometimes it’s painful having to type in all the capchas etc first.

On the other hand, regular blog readers encounter so many comment forms, I may be making this less intuitive for them.

Opinion First vs Familiarity?

Get actionable tips to grow your website

Thoughtful weekly insights (no hype!) on improving your website