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Expiration date field bad for conversions?

Home Forums Community Forum Expiration date field bad for conversions?

This topic contains 4 replies, has 3 voices. Last updated by  Mike (Volunteer Moderator) 3 years, 5 months ago.

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Posted: Friday Jul 26th, 2013 at 2:25 pm #54169
Username: wellwater


Switch expiration date field from a MM/YYYY text field to two drop-downs select boxes, such as:

[07] [2013]
[08] [2013]


[07 – July] [2013]
[08 – August] [2013]


A little less than a year ago I made a feature request on this forum to have s2member’s core code change the credit card expiration date from a text field to a drop-down field, as is done on 99% of websites.

It was sent to Jason as a feature request, but I haven’t heard much about it since. I noticed a few others have made the request as well, but it doesn’t look like it was ever bubbled up beyond their respective posts.

I’m making the same request, but I’m going to try to give a compelling reason for Why it should be done, so that it may have greater heft with Jason & co. to see it as more than just another trifle feature suggestion that’s bandied about, and instead be seen as strengthening and beneficial to the product and its userbase.

I think one of the most important things that s2member has going for it is how well optimized the checkout process is, but I do think the MM/YYYY text field for the expiration date is a real blind spot that needs fixing. I haven’t seen this approach on any other commercial website. I don’t understand the original rationale for implementing it in such an unintuitive and non-conventional way.

The convention is to use two drop-downs: one month, one year.

The text field is more cumbersome for potential customers to deal with in the following ways:

1) As it’s not the norm, the user has the pause, absorb, decipher the structure and instructions for how to enter the data. The last thing you want a potential buyer to do is spend time figuring out how to technically fill out a required part of a checkout form, when they could just abandon the process out of frustration. The is the only field on the form that’s not inherently intuitive. Cart abandonment is a real issue for all merchants, and this field exacerbates it. s2member is intelligent enough to have the Country field as a drop-down with the most common Country selected by default, but why not do the same for expiration dates?

2) The data has to be entered in a precise format, or else validation will fail. The following expiration of July 2013 will fail:
Sure, we’re telling the user MM/YYYY is the format, but that may not be the format as shown on their credit card. This could lead to confusion, frustration and site abandonment. This assumes they even see the MM/YYYY in the first place. If they don’t notice it, then checkout will be impossible to complete. If they don’t understand what the MM/YYYY means, checkout can’t complete. I think it’s a mistake to assume folks are tech savvy enough to know that YYYY means year and that it means a four-digit year instead of a general suggestion of year (2 digits or 4 digits).

I know we’d like to think that folks who’ve gone this far to enter their credit card data won’t just skip out when they see this error. That they’ll try hard to figure out how to get through because they clearly want the product. I think this is a mistake. Folks will abandon checkout if they’re confused, even after entering all their billing data with the intent to buy. I tracked this behavior on another site where the user was required to enter a username without spaces. I’ve had people keep entering spaces, and getting a validation error, and they just decided to leave. I’ve had folks not select the required terms and condition checkbox after repeatedly submitting the form, and just leaving because they didn’t understand, or see the box, or whatever. They just got up and left and decided it wasn’t worth buying because they couldn’t figure out how to buy it. And, based on my experience, noone will ever email the site owner to tell them of their troubles. They’ll just leave and never come back, so there will be silent failures that merchants cannot and will never know about.

3) When I purchase something from a website, I always give the checkout form a quick glance. If it’s too complicated, I’m considering whether it’s even worth the hassle. The expiration field as-is could be one of those things that can make people say, forget it, especially if they get caught in an endless loop of validation errors. I can’t even multivariate test this as the expiration format validation is done on the front end via s2member’s JavaScript function and on the backend. Unless it’s changed in the core, we’re stuck with it.

4) Problematic for mobile and tablet users. A few years ago, this may not have been an issue, but mobile devices take up a large chunk of visitors and potential customers. This text expiration field is especially problematic for such users because when they navigate into it, the “alphabet” QWERTY keyboard pops up, then they’re required to switch to the “numeric” keyboard and enter the date in an exact format. Which leads back to problem #2: Entering the date precisely. For mobile users, if they enter the date as 7/2013 (with the missing zero at the front) this will result in a validation error. Then they’ll have to re-enter the field and switch from the QWERTY to numeric keyboard all over again. Finally, as this text is one full, uninterrupted string of characters, they’ll have to backspace over everything they entered and start from scratch.

One article that talks about optimizing the checkout form here:

Section #6 of the article states:

6. Format Field For Expiration Date Exactly As It Appears On Credit Card

Issue: Fields for credit card expiration dates can be tricky to decipher if they aren’t written exactly as they are on the credit card.

s2member is a fantastic piece of software. Well done in so many places, but for this particular section I think it’s a serious problem. I think anything that can be done to improve conversions is worth considering. I’m concerned that this implementation is actually hurting conversions and I don’t see what possible advantage it can have over the use of traditional month/year dropdown select boxes.

Yes, I know this seems like a small and minor thing, but sometimes small changes can make a big impact as A/B case studies have shown. And this problem occurs at the final and most critical part of conversion funnel.

I hope I’ve made a convincing case to make this change. It may be one of those things folks don’t think much about, but I do think such an alteration would be all upside and no downside.


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Posted: Wednesday Jul 31st, 2013 at 1:46 am #54458
Username: Bruce
Staff Member

Sorry for the delay over the weekend.

And thank you for your detailed suggestion here. I see what you’re saying with this. We are keeping this in mind going forward, but I can’t say for sure that we will get this added in soon, but I will bump this at the development level. We are currently making some small changes to the Pro Form to make them more flexible, so perhaps we can add this in as well.

Posted: Wednesday Jul 31st, 2013 at 5:45 pm #54537
Username: Bruce
Staff Member

I can confirm that this is coming in the next maintenance release of s2Member. :-)

Posted: Wednesday Jul 31st, 2013 at 6:30 pm #54538
Username: wellwater

Great news. Thanks Bruce.

Posted: Thursday Aug 1st, 2013 at 12:33 pm #54609
HOORAY! This feature came with s2Member® Pro v130731 :-)
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