UIEtips Article: Web Form Design in the Wild- Part 1

Jared Spool

April 9th, 2010

Web-based applications are quickly becoming critical strategic components for many organizations. In our research at UIE, we’ve found that creating usable forms is essential to the success of these applications.

Forms are crucial for users to complete many online transactions, ranging from sign-up forms for introducing new customers to your site, to checkout forms for finalizing your users’ purchases.

In this week’s UIEtips, we’re republishing part 1 of an article written by Luke Wroblewski. He’s one of our favorite experts on web form design. Luke discusses tips for improving web forms and impacting user success. Stay tuned next week for Part II.

Read Luke’s article: Web Form Design in the Wild, Part 1

Web forms are one of the most challenging design problems. In our next UIE Virtual Seminar, Luke shares his thoughts and solutions on 6 important aspects of web form design gleaned from hundreds of questions and issues designers presented to him. Learn more about Luke’s webinar, Answered! Your Top Questions on Web Form Design.

Do you have any best practices for designing forms? What usability problems have you encountered with your web forms? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Share your thoughts with us and join the conversation below.

4 Responses to “UIEtips Article: Web Form Design in the Wild- Part 1”

  1. Bryan Says:

    For short forms, I like to put the “this is what I started filling out this form in the first place for” input box first. For example, on a weblog, I want the big comment textarea at the top, the name field second and the e-mail third. If a reader has a reaction and wants to share it, I don’t want to get in their way with administrivia.

    Also, I like to think it helps out those of us with extremely short attention spans.

  2. Michael Zuschlag Says:

    I’m struck by how many design errors seem to be peculiar to web forms, and are nearly unheard-of for a thick-client desktop app: A desktop app would use a classic message box which shows the error in context (5), gives the message top visual priority (6), and doesn’t erase earlier input (8). (Not that a message box is necessarily the best way to go for the web). A desktop app might have navigation to irrelevant windows (1), mismatch command and window name (2), and lack of defaults (3), but in practice these are very rare except in real amateur designs. Why is it necessary for web form designers to re-learn the lessons from the past?

  3. Paul Rouke Says:

    One of my most popular usability posts earlier this year was entitled Form Field Best Practice and Hints to Assure Wary Users.

    Hopefully this will provide some greater insight into the potential pitfalls of poorly designed and delivered forms (especially when a new user is negotiating a checkout process, where the industry wide issue of abandonment often occurs).

  4. Tom Shull Says:

    I would recommend that those interested in forms design check out the website http://www.bfma.org. BFMA (previously known as the Business Forms Management Association) is the industry association made up of forms designers and managers. It has been around for almost 50 years! Obviously they started with their focus on paper forms, but are now very interested and involved in electronic forms, usability and related issues. They have a listserv called “Formspace” to which you can subscribe for questions, help, opinions, etc.
    I think both the usability community and the forms community would profit from more interaction between the two.

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