Once upon a time, in the early days of the internet, if you made one mistake while filling out a form online, you’d get an error message when you clicked “Next,” the form would clear, and you’d have to start all over again. Of course, those were the heady days when the idea of doing anything on the internet was so exciting, we’d put up with such nonsense. Today, you can know something is wrong the moment you enter poorly formatted data. This is called inline validation and it keeps ecommerce customers engaged.
Live Inline Validation Defined
Live inline validation is defined as the process of determining the validity of a user’s form inputs as they progress, rather than checking it when their inputs are complete. Surprisingly though, a 2016 checkout usability study by the Baymard Institute revealed some 40 percent of websites still don’t have it. And, 20 percent of those that do have it are using it improperly.
Proponents say providing immediate feedback shortens form completion time by affirming everything is correct as the user progresses rather than notifying them of errors when they thought they were finished. This keeps the user moving along (say, through checkout for example) free of frustration. Remember, checkout issues are one of the key stumbling blocks to conversion. Annoy a customer at this stage of the transaction and they may decide buying from your site isn’t worth the irritation.
Proper Implementation is Key
For this reason, it’s important to look for this feature in free ecommerce website templates when deciding which platform to use for your store. Now, with that said, you also need to make sure the way the tool is implemented won’t disrupt the checkout process. A phenomenon known as premature inline validation occurs when the input is flagged as erroneous before the user finishes typing. This can make shoppers think something is wrong when there isn’t. Or worse, anger them because the site is correcting them before they actually make a mistake. Rather than anticipating, it’s better for the validation engine to wait to check the field once an input is complete.
Proven Faster and More Accurate
Digital customer experience expert Luke Wroblewski conducted a test with a London-based usability firm to observe 22 average users completing six variations of a registration form. He used three with inline validation and three without. The findings showed users were faster, more successful, less error-prone and more satisfied with inline validation. When asked, they said it was because they didn’t have to reread the entire form to resolve errors after submitting it. They could correct them as they went along instead.
The “Joys” of Pogosticking
Wroblewski says, “Submitting and resubmitting forms to check answers can lead to a form of the frustrating and often unsuccessful behavior sometimes called ‘pogosticking.’” This often occurs when people are asked to provide an answer they may not be able to guess correctly the first time. As an example, selecting a username can result in pogosticking because you don’t know which usernames a website has available. So you make a guess, click “create account,” learn the username you want is taken, guess again, click “create account” again, and so on—until you find one you can live with that isn’t already taken.
Now, imagine how your customers will feel trying to register for your loyalty program if your interface forces them to operate in this fashion.
More Engagement = More Conversions
Your goal, with everything you do on your ecommerce site, should be to move the customer along to a purchase. Inline validation keeps ecommerce customers engaged, which will always have a positive effect on your bottom line.