Thank you to all who submitted your answers on my previous post Which One Would You Choose; where I asked visitors to select from a choice of four site snapshots, which site they would complete a ESTA form on.
The lines are now closed and the votes are in… Let’s see how the people chose…
Most people chose A.
The official site to complete an ESTA on is D. If you completed a form on D it would of been free and would be guaranteed to be processed. If you completed a form on any of the other three you would of had to pay approximately £30 – £40. These 3 sites are typical of many that are charging people to complete ESTA forms.
Official Sites Versus Unofficial Sites
The results here reflect reports that more people are paying to complete ESTA forms from unofficial sites. It’s important to note that the people who complete the forms and end up paying for them are not stupid. They are victims of well worked campaigns combined with efficient design. Here are some design related reasons I believe people are paying to complete forms on the unofficial sites rather than for free on the official site:
Colour Schemes/Look & Feel
A lot of the unofficial sites appear have utilised ‘American’ colour schemes (reds and blues), flags and American imagery:
Whereas the official site is prodominently green which most would not immediately associate with America:
It’s possible that some people are electing to use the ‘unofficial’ sites as the appear to have more synergy with the USA, and therefore people think that they look more official.
Calls to Action & Usability
There are clear calls to action on the unofficial sites. Well placed and noticeable buttons labelled: Click Here, Instant Download, ESTA Form or Continue, help make it easy for the site visitor to complete what they want to do, in this case fill out an ESTA form.
The buttons and links are placed in a combination of places some at the top of the web page, some at the bottom but they all have at least one call to action that appears on screen as soon as the page appears on screen.
However, the official site has no clear call to action; you have to work really hard to discover what you have to do next. In fact (as illustrated below) you have to scroll about 1600 pixels down the page (i.e. well below the fold – if you consider that the average screen displays 1020 pixels) before you even see the apply button! Ordinarily we’d recommend that calls to action appear both above and below the fold.
It’s possible then that some come to the official site, but lose confidence as it’s not immediately apparent what they need to do.
Assurance and Confidence
Here, both the official and unofficial sites do pretty well. Most of the sites in this example use checklists or step by step examples . Each help to give an impression of transparency and encourage confidence in the site.
One of the most important things to learn from this example is the importance of call to action and usability. Although 27% chose the official site based on a snapshot. Had the test been based on visiting the sites it may have been even less, seeing as visitors have to scroll down nearly twice the length of the screen to even find the apply button.
Every site needs a call to action whether it is to fill out a form, generate a phone call or submit a vote. The clearer the call to action is, the better the site will convert.
Similarly, consideration needs to be given to site look and feel. Use of colour and imagery, and theming to meet visitor’s expectations of how a site should look are key.
Suggestions for the Official Site
If I was tasked with redesigning the form on the official site, I’d look specifically at the following areas:
- The essential difference between the official site and the others is that it is free to complete the ESTA form. Yet this is not mentioned on the the official site . The first thing I would do is alert the visitor that the form is free to complete on this site.
- I would also address the call to action. I would place an apply now button close to the top of the page with enough white space around it for it to stand out.
- I would also look to address the design / colour scheme in order to reflect an outsider’s perception of “America”