Thursday, August 9, 2007

VisualSciences HBX Active Viewing Form Overlay

Someone asked on the Yahoo! Web Analytics forum about HBX Active Viewing form overlay functionality.

My experience

  • The nicest thing about HBX is that whenever there are more than a couple of fields on a page, form analysis is automatically turned on. No fancy tagging, no after-the-fact missed tags, etc.
  • The Form Overlay works just like the "plain" Active Viewing overlay. It will show each form field with a color tone representing it's impact on conversion, along with a bunch of useful info
  • You might have trouble installing the plug-in on Vista because it requires .Net 1.1... In fact, Vista is not in the list of supported operating systems... So the latest version of Active Viewing doesn't work, but here's a hint: search for Active Viewing in their support center and you will find a link to an older version that works :)

Does it really work?

Absolutely! Really easy to use and quite revealing. I ran into a couple of cases where the overlay didn't work and it usually turned out to be badly built HTML pages: nested forms, invalid HTML syntax, or uses of JavaScript to alter the normal behavior of a form.

Also, if the site uses a lot of CSS layering, you might end up with the overlay behind your form fields, which is annoying but you will be able to get the results anyway.

Analysis

Here's a couple of things you might find out with the Form Overlay:
  • Lots of abandonment on the first field? Might be an indication that people get scared of what they have to fill!
  • Lots of abandonment on the last field? Might be an indication that people don't want to commit to the transaction (for example, in a shopping cart process, a lot of people abandon once they get the total price)
  • Lots of abandonment on a specific field? Might be a badly worded question or out of context question (asking for gender to purchase a CD!)
  • Gradual abandonment as you go own the list of fields? Might be an indication you have too many fields, people gradually drop off by discouragement.

My take

HBX's Active Viewing is by far the best I've seen, providing detailed information as you surf and the overlay feature works under almost any kind of situation: plain HTML, dynamic menus, image maps, even dynamic links, etc. (in some cases, more extensive tagging needs to be done). Although you can get similar information from the regular reports, and especially the Form Abandonment report, there's nothing better than showing the numbers "in context".
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