Abandonment Issues

So you have a great call to action leading up to a form, but your conversion rate still isn’t as good as it could be? Take a look at your abandonment rate.

What is the abandonment rate?

the abandonment rate is the percentage of people who start in your conversion process, however don’t complete the process. For example if you have a registration form, it could be the % of people who get the the ‘sign-up’ form, but who never successfully submit it. And the higher the abandonment rate, the lower the conversion rate.

Why would I have a high abandonment rate?

Abandonment can occur for many different reasons however here are the most common,

  • Form doesn’t work
  • Form is too complicated
  • Distractions
  • Not what was expected
  • No perceived reward

Form Doesn’t Work

We’ve seen a large number of forms that don’t work. It could be anything from broken validation, or Javascript dependency, to errors or 404 pages on submit or when trying to view the form. Also just as important is accessibility, can a user on a mobile device, or using IE < 9 easily fill out and submit the form. These are some issues as to why a form doesn’t work. So test, test and test again.

Form is too complicated

Tests have shown that the shorter a form is, the more people will complete and submit it. When a user is presented with too many fields, they will most likely not complete it, unless the perceived reward for filling it is greater than the perceived effort.

One way to reduce perceived effort is to break the form up across multiple pages.  While multi-stage forms can be difficulty to implement, they make it less overwhelming to an end user, and they add additional points to track abandonment so you can get a better idea what question(s) are tripping up your visitors.

Another way to reduce perceived effort is to remove all non-essential fields. While it might be nice to get their fax number, it really isn’t required, as an email is usually all you need. If you need their fax number later, you could always email them and ask for it.

Finally, if you have a captcha, get rid of it. All they do is annoy your users, (spammers usually subscribe to services that bypass them) . There are other techniques to reduce spam that work better, and don’t annoy your users such as  CIFR, Referrer testing, good server-side validation, cleaning submitted information and honeypots are some examples.

Another possibility is that the form is too difficult to fill out, uses terms not familiar to your user, doesn’t provide validation tips, doesn’t provide validation feedback (what failed).


Ideally your form should just have the form, no call to actions (other than the submit), no other major information, and no advertising. These are usually designed to attract the users attention and get them to take an action and/or follow a link. This will lead them away from the form causing an abandonment, and there is no guarantee that they will return and complete the form.

In the case of major, non goal related, information sharing space with your goal, people might read the content and then leave, either not interested in your goal, or not seeing that the goal is there. This can lead in very high abandonment rates, as the end user doesn’t see that the pursuing the goal is the purpose of that page.

Not what was expected

Sometimes the link and/or information leading to your goal is misleading (example: about us page with a contact form). If a user visits a section of a website, and gets something they didn’t expect, it can seriously hurt your credibility. More often than not, not only will they abandon the goal, but they will also leave the site. Ideally the call to action leading up to your goal should briefly explain what the end user can expect to see, and you should be following through on that.

No perceived reward, or reward not worth it

We briefly touched on the perceived reward, and how if it is not greater than the perceived effort it will lead to abandonment. Not having any reward is just as bad.

Why should someone try to follow through to the goal? why would they give you their email address/information? Is a quote from you worth their time? Are they getting information? Samples? and how much is that worth to them? To reduce the number of abandonments you can increase the the value (or perceived value) of completing your goal.

Solving High Abandonment Rates

As discussed in the preceding paragraphs, the best ways to reduce the abandonment rate is to make sure that your form is simple, easy to fill out, spells out what the benefit of completing it is, has no distractions that might draw a user away from completing a goal, and most importantly, that it works. Remember, lowering the abandonment rate raises the conversion rate.