How reducing friction through a two-step form increases email acquisition rate - NextAfter
Hillsdale College

How reducing friction through a two-step form increases email acquisition rate

Experiment ID: #6242

Hillsdale College

Founded in 1844, Hillsdale College is an independent liberal arts college with a student body of about 1,400. Hillsdale’s educational mission rests upon two principles: academic excellence and institutional independence. The College does not accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies for any of its operations.

Experiment Summary

Timeframe: 02/17/2017 - 03/06/2017

Hillsdale College had previously verified that a two-step signup form for their online courses increased email acquisition rate. However, the platform on which they had built this two-step form made it difficult to do further testing on the signup process. So they decided to rebuild the two-step form on a new platform that made future testing easier.

They wanted to re-test the concept to make sure that the lift still held—and they also wanted to test a new concept. The previous winning treatment had two unique pages that each contained a part of the full form. Their new concept animated the two halves of the form on a single page in a smooth motion that didn’t require a second page.

They launched a three-way split URL test to validate a winning treatment.

Research Question

Will simplifying the signup process through a two-step form increase email acquisition rate?


C: One Page
T1: Old Two Step
T2: Smooth Animation


  Treatment Name Conv. Rate Relative Difference Confidence Average Gift
C: One Page 24.8% $39.57
T1: Old Two Step 28.2% 13.9% 99.6% $52.93
T2: Smooth Animation 25.1% 1.4% 22.9% $51.77

This experiment has a required sample size of 1,861 in order to be valid. Since the experiment had a total sample size of 8,140, and the level of confidence is above 95% the experiment results are valid.

Flux Metrics Affected

The Flux Metrics analyze the three primary metrics that affect revenue (traffic, conversion rate, and average gift). This experiment produced the following results:

    0% increase in traffic
× 13.9% increase in conversion rate
× 33.8% increase in average gift
52.4% increase in revenue

Key Learnings

Both treatments produced a lift to the control, as expected (since this had validated in a previous test on a different platform). However, the two-page solution produced a much higher lift than the “smooth animation” form—and also produced a 76% increase in donations after the signup process.

This was a fascinating result, since the two-page solution required more time and presented more friction. This result suggests a few potential learnings:

  1. Enrollees might be more invested in the process with a more tedious signup process—in this case, more friction could have been a qualifying factor.
  2. Older enrollees might have been confused by the “smooth animation” form, and the two-page solution provided more clarity.
  3. The second page that asked for a home address provided a layer of insulation from poor donation prospects, as they might not have completed the entire process.

This treatment was quickly rolled out to all Hillsdale courses, and provided lifts across the board. The new two-step form also now allows more iterative testing for each course.

Experiment Documented by Jeff Giddens
Jeff Giddens is President of NextAfter.

Question about experiment #6242

If you have any questions about this experiment or would like additional details not discussed above, please feel free to contact them directly.