The question protocol is a simple but effective technique we always use at Clearleft when we’re designing online forms. It’s a way of doing detective work to fully understand the real purpose of a form in order to maximise the effectiveness of it design.
Each piece of information you ask for has two costs:
- Firstly it is an impairment to accurate completion of the process;
- Secondly there is a time and money cost of collecting, storing and processing any additional information, and handling situations where the information is false or inconsistent.
With this in mind, the question protocol asks the following of any information that you are asking:
- Why do you need this information?
- Who will use the information, and what decision will be made or action taken based on the information collected?
- How will you validate the information that is submitted?
- What happens if the submitted information is false or made up?
- What’s the impact of the information not being submitted?
- What happens if the information goes out of date?
- Can a customer update their submitted information? Should they be able to?
- Are you allowed (legally and ethically) to collect this information?
- How is it shared? With whom? What are the privacy implications?
- How securely does it need to be stored?
Asking those questions should lead you to answering the ultimate one: “Is the question really necessary?” In the long run following the question protocol can save money and improve conversions and process completion.
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