Make It Easy!

Some friends loaned us Season One of Treme, the HBO series about post-Katrina New Orleans.

As we finished the last episode, we decided to add HBO and start Season Two.

A quick Google for Time Warner, select “Shop,” purchase and begin watching, right?

It wasn’t to be.

First, I was given an opportunity to sign in using my Time Warner username and password. (As if I could remember, even if I had one!)

Fortunately there was also an option to shop without signing in…but that simply led to a screen in which I could enter the needed information.

Still, I was committed, so dutifully completed the form, only to be rewarded with an error screen telling me my order could not be processed at this time.

It was my third opportunity to abandon the transaction. Not surprisingly, I did.

The experience was a good reminder of the importance of usability in online forms. I think the stakes are even higher for fundraisers. I had an incentive to complete the transaction (enhanced service); donors do not.

I think it’s a good illustration of some fundamental principles online fundraisers need to follow.

1. Make the donation form easy to find. Clearly visible. Clearly labeled. Clearly available from anywhere on your site. Any questions or confusion will cut down the number of clicks.

2. Make the donation form easy to get to. Don’t build barriers to donating. Users should get to your form in one or two clicks. Then the primary focus should be on making the donation; collect donor information after that commitment, not before!

3. Make the donation form easy to navigate. Keep the form clean and uncluttered. Use lots of white space. Label fields clearly and make it readily apparent what information is required. Don’t add extraneous information or other distractions.

4. Make the donation form easy to complete. Provide instructions where needed. For example, if you don’t want spaces in the credit card number, let the user know; don’t make them guess. And if there is an error, identify it clearly and suggest the solution.

5. Make the entire experience easy. Create a context for the user that provides both an overview of the process and an indicator of where they are now. Along the way, reassure them (subtly, so as not to interfere) both of the safety and confidentiality of their information and the value of their support. Finally, make other giving options (e.g., monthly giving) readily available as well.

Don’t Make Me Think. The title of Steve Krug’s book on the basic principles of web design should be the mantra for every form design.

Especially donation forms.