Admit it, every time you get a link to a form you need to fill out you just want to close the browser. Ever think an online magazine or social network was cool but refrained from joining because of a lengthy sign-up process? Mashable’s Kelli Shaver says it best, “When your goal is to convert visitors to users and get as many sign-ups as possible, the last thing you want is for your registration page to act as a barrier.”
Remember, the registration process is your store front. Often it is the first meaningful interaction your applicants will have with you and your project. The process should be painless, fast and seamless. In a store, you will never see blocks or hoops standing in your way of the checkout line, so the same applies here. This post looks at how to improve your registration process in 8 easy steps!
As a camp, camp registration software and camp management software is the foundation of your interaction with campers and their families. If you are looking for an online conference registration software or online event registration software, a software that works well for attendees, speakers and vendors a like can help you manage your time and provide a seamless process for getting the even together. And if you’re a sports league and in the market for a sports league management software – a central software that allows players and their families to register and pay with different types of payment methods can increase your income and fill your league faster!
Any great registration process starts with minimizing the number of questions, pages and forms required in order to complete the process. But how do you balance a minimalist approach to applications and still get the information you need from your applicants?
We could say that the secret is in the balance (like anything, no?) but there actually are a number of guidelines you can follow that will make your registration process great for you and for your applicants.
Always remember when building your registration process that people hate filling out forms. In this post we will layout 8 tips that years of experience, thousands of forms and hundreds of registration processes have taught us. If you implement only some of these, chances are you will see a higher number of your applicants completing your registration accurately and on time. And after all, that’s what it’s all about!
1. How to improve your registration process: Identify what’s essential.
The best place to start when scaling down and streamlining your application is identifying the information you must have from your applicant. Make sure you put that information in the first form or two you are asking them to fill out. That way if they drop off after that, you’ve got the basic info you need. (Here’s a great post on what exactly to ask in your application.)
Asking too much will backfire on you. By asking questions you don’t necessarily need the answer to, you might end up getting those useless answers over information that is really important and valuable. Creating an application that strategically and logically gives you the answers you need will net what’s most important and you’ll spend less time tracking down the information you really value.
2. Break it Up Into Stages
Breaking up the application process into different stages is the first step towards creating a great registration process. It feels much better to start an application seeing that there are only two or three forms or sections to complete rather than ten. Applicants that see several forms right away can get frustrated or overwhelmed. At best, they will tell themselves that they will get to it later (and never will…). At worst, they will leave before they even get started.
Once you have your applicants engaged you can add the other stages to their application process as they go along. At this point, they will be more willing to continue through the process since they have already invested time and energy into it.
Be aware! There is a delicate balance here! You don’t want to have too many stages in the process since that will make the applicant feel you are tricking them. But you still need enough information that gives you what you need for a completed applicant. Make sure you convey the process to them in the beginning, outlining what to expect in your application. But make it short, people in general will not read more than 2-3 lines of instructions.
3. Automate and Streamline
In an online process people expect things to happen instantly. Google has spoiled us all! Therefore, it is best to have each stage automatically open up to applicants as they move through the process. Why? Because getting the applicant to your site again is hard, so if you have a computerized system that can automatically open up the next stage as people move through the process, you have a winner!
If you cannot do that, then make sure that the next stages only appear once you’ve established good engagement with your applicant. This can be anything from an acceptance email, a special offer or even a personal welcome phone call. Once engagement is established you can ask them to go into the application process again to complete missing steps. Note that there is a chance you will lose them when moving from stage one to two if the process isn’t clear, so again, if you can automate the stages, it is always better.
4. Tell them where they are in the process.
Having a completion bar or some graphic that shows how far they have come and how much left they have to complete goes a long way in helping applicants complete each stage. People like to see what they’ve accomplished and may be motivated to continue just to see that bar fill from 50% to 100% complete.
5. Ask questions only once.
Asking the same question several times throughout an application is annoying and quite frankly, unprofessional. So make sure you are not asking them to enter the same information again and again. Even with an application that is programmed minimally, you can auto-fill the answers to certain questions if you must ask them twice. If the “general information” section and the “housing form” require an age or address to be entered, do your applicants and yourself a favor by supplying that information the second time it appears with the answer they gave previously.
Also look at how the information can be grouped together. Can you create categories and cluster similar questions and requirements together? Clustering related information can help you get what you need from your applicants while they save time with your succinct and logical application stages. Try to cluster information based on what makes logical sense for the applicant, not for you. With your reporting system (if you don’t have one, you should!) you can draw out the information you’ll need in the format that suits you best (another reason to not ask the same question more than once, even if you use an auto-fill feature) but the applicant should see a concise and logical application when they are filling it out.
An often overlooked aspect of an any registration process is style. People like a pleasing and beautiful interface. It is easier on the eyes, makes you look more professional and believe it or not, you will get more completed applications because of it. Simply put, it’s dangerous to overlook the importance of a well styled and easy on the eye registration process when you are trying to get as many applicants as possible to complete the process. Easy to read fonts, bolded sections to emphasize importance and adequate space for answers help aid applicants in completing everything. Space the form out, have error messages show up if and when errors occur and use all the new fancy web technology out there to make everything sleek and smooth.
7. Use the Internet (you know, that thing everyone is talking about…)!
Allow your applicants to fill out forms online, submit documents by uploading them and pay online. This will not only save you money, but will also save a lot of trees. You will also save loads of time filing endless documents in those file cabinets that have been in your office since 1987 (or, shudder, since before you were born). Your applicants will love it since they can do it at home, the office, or even on the train. And you’ll love it because all the information you need for each application will be conveniently located in one place.
Having all of your data online also helps you see the bigger picture for every applicant and every project you have going. How much of the process has an applicant completed? How much do they have left? What is missing? Quickly assess how many applicants, completed and uncompleted, you have for each product. An online format that asks the right questions is key in helping you get what you need. And here’s a secret, it also helps give the applicant the bigger picture too! Which means more completed applications and less confusion all around.
Remember that having an online registration process is different than having a paper registration (something we’ll talk about in a future post). Your applicants assume you have a database and will find it funny if you ask the same questions twice or in different ways. Don’t forget your applicants are smart, 21st century, computer savvy people and will most likely judge your organization negatively if you have an antiquated and confusing process. Make sure to have a dashboard where they can see their progress at a glance and also have links to every form if they want to do the process in a non linear way.
If you’re going to go online then do it 100%. Don’t ask them to fill out the application online and then print it out and fax or scan it to you. If you are doing that, then just go with a paper application. If they fill it out online then it should should stay online (sorry printers, scanners and USPS). Look out for a future post on the Top 5 Application Mistakes organizations make, which will go into this issue further.
8. Individualize the Registration Process!
Once you have everything online, forms created and prices set, you can begin the process of individualizing the application for every applicant. With an ‘on the fly’ kind of process, one that learns the applicant as he proceeds through the application and answers certain questions, you can further maximize the important and necessary information you get by minimizing what you ask for.
For example, if you need to know if your applicant knows any other languages and if so, need to ask several questions to understand their fluency, you should start with a simple “Do you know any other languages”, yes or no. If they answer yes, present the additional questions to the applicants that you need to ascertain their fluency. If they answer no, move on to the next question. This way you ensure that the extra questions are only presented to those applicants that really need to see them. And those that don’t won’t call you confused about how to answer questions on language fluency when they only speak English!
Since an individualized process works by filtering out questions, requirements and payments that are irrelevant for that specific user, the applicant spends less time wading through confusing checklists and payment sheets and more time getting the application done. And you spend less time fielding calls and emails explaining why you don’t need Form A but you do need Form B, and oh by the way you still owe $200. Confusing!
An individualized process allows your applicants to go through your registration process without needing to understand your logic.
By using these tips on how to improve your registration process, the hope is that you receive accurate applications, with less time spent on your end actively supporting applicants and receiving correct payments on time. Don’t forget…
- Identify the information you really need from your applicants.
- Break the application into stages.
- Use technology to automate and streamline the process.
- Keep your applicants informed about where they are in the process.
- Ask questions only once (and only those you really need).
- Have a great looking application that encourages people to complete it!
- Online applications and databases save time and keep you and your team organized.
- Individualize the application process!
- Gather information on your ideal attendee and build the process around them.