PPF Blog

AskThem Experiment 5: Removing Firstname & Lastname from Signature

This is the writeup of Experiment Five of our open-analytics experiments on AskThem, conducted with support from Google Civic InnovationBackground on this project.

Test five focuses on question pages, the backbone of our site, and specifically the fields on the right-hand side to sign. Currently, AskThem requires four fields from a visitor to sign a question posted by another user: firstname, lastname, email and five digit zip code. (If a new visitor clicks the button to ask a question, or asks a question from an elected officials’ page, at that point during the process we ask for his or her residential street address, which helps us connect users to their elected officials as constituents.)

Asking for firstname & lastname is standard e-petition practice, and many other commercial services also require address in the right-hand sidebar when signing – but we can get by without firstname & lastname, in theory. It certainly feels like a personal gesture, and it’s good to know as often local elected officials will know the people who signed questions to them (this is a frequent inquiry from our partners and an interesting product issue) – but as names are often used pretty much only in our email communications to users, if it increases conversions significantly to remove those fields (as is often the case with web forms), then we may consider such on some pages.

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This experiment is running now in Optimzizely and its results will be published here, openly. Goals measured are overall page engagement (clicks anywhere) and on “sign” button in particular. Which, to be clear, is not a guarantee of a valid new user signing a question – but simply measuring clicks. But a really important click to measure, the “sign” button.

With further testing, we could determine actual number of new AskThem users generated on these pages via split-testing – after all, we don’t vigorously prevent users from entering dummy data, such as fake email addresses, though at several points we have basic best-practice safeguards in-place to weed those out. But for now that’s at least an indication that our site visitors are not committed to tying their name to a signature on a question. It’s certainly well known that fewer fields in a form increases signup & clicks conversions by making it easier for the visitor, less arduous / frightening / personal.

At the same time, user testing could elaborate that in our core use case – local online conversation with municipal elected officials – being able to see more user names in more places is vital. Is that benefit of more-local identification worth a 10% increase in clicks on the “sign” button? AskThem’s sustainability depends on all of the following: registering new users, converting signatures on question pages, and facilitating quality local public dialogue in cities (often with users who choose real names). Our non-profit platform’s path may choose to weigh these differently at different points.

From these revealing & crucial analytics experiments, my open-source development team and I now have empirical evidence on how we can enhance our non-profit platform. From here, I have other good ideas to connect visitors to their local elected officials – but we need charitable funding support to continue operating and move towards sustainability. Please support our non-profit work. Questions, comments: david at ppolitics.org.

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