by anthony on 11/03/10 at 12:03 am
Expedia learned a valuable lesson about optional form fields. And it only took them $12 million to do it. However, you can learn it right here for free. The lesson is twofold. When you put too many fields on your forms, users can make more mistakes. And if your labels aren’t clear and specific about the information you’re asking for, users can enter the wrong information that can lead to form submission failure. When you’re dealing with money, this can cost you.
What happened with Expedia’s form is that their users mistakenly interpreted an optional form field labeled “Company” as the place to put the name of their bank. After putting in their bank name, they went on to enter the address of their bank in the address field, rather than their home address. When it came time to verify their address to process their credit card, it failed because it was not the right address. They removed the optional field and started seeing $12 million of profit a year.
When it comes to form design, clarity is important. If you have optional form fields you don’t need, get rid of them. More fields can lead to more confusion. If you have certain fields that users can easily misinterpret, put clear and specific labels on them. In this case, “Home Address” instead of “Address” and “Your Company” instead of “Company” would’ve been clearer. Expedia learned the hard way that lack of clarity on forms can cost you. Don’t make the same mistake they did.