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Form Field Usability Revisited: Select Menus vs. Radio Buttons [Original Research]

Form Field Usability Revisited: Select Menus vs. Radio Buttons [Original Research]

This short study from CXL Institute compares form completion time on 2 various form designs (radio buttons or select menus).

Is one form design more user-friendly than the other?

Results summary

  • The form with radio buttons was faster to complete than the form with dropdown menus.
    • Survey participants completed the radio button form (n = 354) an average of 2.5 seconds faster than the form with select menu buttons (n = 354). This was significantly faster at a 95% confidence level.

How do I apply this research?

  • If you’re using select menu form fields, you might want to test radio buttons if you don’t have a ton of possible responses.
  • This study should provide you with direct evidence (data) to justify the test.

Background

This summer, uxmovements.com published an article sparking our curiosity towards the use of select menu form fields when another form field type would work.  In their piece, “Why Users Abandon Forms with Select Menus,” they argue that forms with select menus often get abandoned because they “take more time and effort to complete.”

More specifically they say they slowed users down by interrupting user flow, being hard to read, and requiring dexterous mouse maneuvering.

But, they provide no data to support this.

Well, it’s easy enough to test. And we were just launching a large survey on online trust perception, so we had a good opportunity to simply manipulate a survey form and ask different groups of people the same questions in different formats (select menus vs. radio buttons) to see how form completion time compared.

Note, in a related study we also tested multi-column vs. single column form completion time.

Study Report

Data Collection Methods and Operations:

The survey was sent out in early June 2016. A total of 708 participants filled out the forms (n = 354 for the select menu form, and n = 354 for the radio button form). We restricted the survey to desktop users.

Treatment Variations

form with radio buttons

form with multi-select

Findings

We ran a simple 2-sample t-test to compare the results. Here they are:

Limitations & Additional Study Ideas

Our form variations here are unique, in that they asked a set amount of questions, had certain types of questions, had labels presented in a particular way, etc.  These results are therefore not directly transferable to all form types and situations.

Conclusion

Our results showed that surveys with radio buttons were completed more quickly. If you’re using select menu form fields, you might want to test radio buttons if you don’t have a ton of possible responses.

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Hi, I'm Peep Laja—founder of CXL. I'm a former champion of optimization and experimentation turned business builder.

I do a lot of thinking, reading, and writing around business, strategy, and optimization. I send a weekly newsletter with what's on my mind on this stuff.

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