Losing the will to input…the basics of good form design

I’ve been working on a site design that incorporates a lot of web forms this week and surfing the web for inspiration. It’s made me realise how much time and effort designers put into bringing users to sign-up and contact forms, only to present a poorly crafted form. Here are some of my form musings:

Break it into manageable chunks

There is nothing more off-putting than a long form that scrolls endlessly off the screen. Breaking the form into small, manageable chunks or stages make the form appear more manageable and less of a chore for the user. The checkout process on Game is a great example of this:

Good form design

Use live inline validation

This is where each form field is validated separately as the user types. The error handling is instant, with the user being told that their data doesn’t match the expected format. I gleaned a lot from this excellent article by Luke Wroblewski.

Form design
Twitter have really nailed live validation feedback on their signup form.

Add personality

Adding a bit of brand sparkle can lift a form from a mundane chore into something personable and dare I say ‘fun’. People enjoy relating to people and a small dose of friendliness and personality can make the input process a bit more enjoyable and human.

Form design
I love the hand drawn signup form on Christian Sparrow’s site

Offer multiple choice where possible

Choosing items from a list is easier than filling in a blank field with text. My user testing experience has shown that users are often confused when filling in blanks, especially if the labelling is not clear.

Form design

Buffalo
do this brilliantly with their contact form – you can select from set options rather than filling in blanks

A well-designed form that gives the user feedback can make the difference between a successful conversation and a drop-off failure. As Shawn Borsky says on Smashing Magazine:

We spend so much time getting people to the door that we forget to make the door as inviting and useful as the path to it.

I'm a freelance UI/UX Designer from London.

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