I’d normally concur with Anthony on this.
However for 3 days now I have had an online form for a motor insurance quote sat in a tab in my browser.
I am dreading filling it in. It has 80 different form elements, and just by looking at it, I know, I know if I get just one wrong - I am going to lose the lot and have to start all over again.
I’m filled with dread, so you are right to ask how to break it up.
Of all the options you asked about and with Anthony’s answer in mind too, I hate to say it but the answer probably remains “it depends…”.
a) how much you stand to lose if, say the user stops half way?
b) how much do users stand to lose if they stop half way?
c) are users logged in, do you know who they are, have they invested any time in your site?
d) are users likely to have to leave their screens to go and dig out information?
e) how long the form is in terms of i) text ii) form elements
f) are some form elements options dependent upon previous selections, and will users go back and change them?
In my insurance company and me the answers are:
b) Potentially an hour (which I dont have)
c) I’m not, I don’t care I’ll go somewhere else of give up and phone them
e) i) not much ii) 80 !!! elements to go wrong!
f) I think so
In your case maybe that is:
a) not much
b) not much
e) not that bad
If that is your case I’d do what Anthony said
My insurance company should have split the page up, ask me first off for my email address started a session, stored each part of the form in a database, keep checking my session. Given me a cookie and made it clear I can can come back any time within say 7 days to finish filling in the form - and if I don’t come back in 7 days, clear out the half-finished database.
As it is I am planning on submitting an empty form to see if the validation is initially client or server side - but I am still dreading it.