Posted on March 12, 2014 by

Mini Case Study: Contest Usability

When it comes to contest usability, efforts should focus on removing barriers. Here’s what we did with

Just the other week, we launched a new contest at Until April 15, users can win prize packs of energy-efficient goodies courtesy of The Home Depot. Each pack includes a shiny Nest Learning Thermostat

To enter to win, users first learn how small conservation efforts at home can add up to big bill savings. Each conservation effort is an interactive illustration like hanging laundry (instead of using a dryer) or replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs. It’s a win-win really – users learn how to save money and get a chance to win a prize pack.

From a contest usability standpoint, we focused on removing entry barriers without watering down the engaging experience. Though we didn’t uncover any new usability breakthroughs, it’s still helpful to see usability in the wild. With that in mind, here’s three ways we significantly improved contest entry rates:

Eliminate gaps.

In previous campaigns, the actual contest entry form lived on Both sites have complementary branding but a change in site risked user drop-off and lower contest entry rates. This time around, the entry form immediately follows the interactive illustrations without any redirects or interstitial pages. We treated each step, redirect, and task as a crack users could slip through so we removed as many as we could.

A bird in the hand…

Users get one contest entry after they go through all the interactive illustrations. They can also get bonus entries if they share the experience on Twitter or Facebook.

To have the best chance of users entering at least once, we put the share option after the original contest entry. This approach may lower share counts but removes the risk of folks not interested in sharing from abandoning their entry all together. If you use promo codes, social sharing, or other tactics to boost entries, make sure they don’t jeopardize the simple, single contest entry (that most users are interested in).

Ask for less.

Our contest entry form asks for the fewest things possible. Some fields, like mailing address, are only need from the winners so we’ll collect them during the confirmation process.

Contest entry forms are not the best way to get accurate customer data. Users know when sites are just trying to fill out their customer database and will give fluffy answers just to enter the contest. If you have to keep some non-essential questions, make sure users have a way of skipping through irrelevant fields, and don’t use this data for any big decisions.

Hey, these sure look simple

Yep, nothing above is earth-shattering. That said, it’s still valuable to share and document our usability stories. A focus on usability helps us achieve business goals and without even simple examples, our efforts can go unnoticed – our sites just work, our contest entries just pile up.

If you live in BC, check out, the chance to win a Nest Learning Thermostat is certainly worth the trouble.