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The long or the short of it?

I was doing some background research on a new customer, looking at how others in a similar space offered their services. I came across one site that to add your offering to their site you needed to fill in 32 fields divided into 5 sections, and all the fields were relevant.

I asked myself (and researched) what is better, to have it as one long scrolling form or to divide each section into individual pages. I have always said that it is better to divide a form up and offer the user a progress bar. This keeps things simple and focused for the poor user. I even found research to back this approach (well duh, if I recommend it to my clients).

However, looking at that one long form, with minimal design gimmicks, so it looked clean and uncluttered, I found myself questioning the known wisdom. Maybe there is an upside to having everything on one long-scrolling page. Even though there were 5 sections, they were interrelated, in that a set of questions followed on from the previous section.

Does cutting down the clicks to move to the next screen beat the reduction in cognitive load? What do you think?

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