Web Form Design Best Practices

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In my Web Form Design Best Practices talk at the Technical Communication Summit in Minneapolis, MN I walked thorugh the importance of Web forms and a series of design best practices culled from live to site analytics, usability testing, eye-tracking studies, and best practice surveys.

Some of the topics I discuss and provide patterns for are: label alignment, required form filed, input field sizes, content grouping, primary & secondary actions, help text & tips, dyanmic help systems, inline validation, error messages, progress indicators, success messaging, progressive disclosure, gradual engagement, tabbing, flexible data inputs, smart defaults, paths to completion, selection dependent inputs, and more...

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Web Form Design Best Practices

  1. 1. BEST PRACTICES FOR FORM DESIGN LUKE WROBLEWSKI TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION SUMMIT 2007 1
  2. 2. Luke Wroblewski Yahoo! Inc. • Senior Principal, Product Ideation & Design LukeW Interface Designs • Principal & Founder • Product design & strategy services Author • Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability (Wiley & Sons) • Form Design Best Practices (Rosenfeld Media) - Upcoming • Functioning Form: Web applications, product strategy, & interface design articles Previously • eBay Inc., Lead Designer • University of Illinois, Instructor • NCSA, Senior Designer http://www.lukew.com 2
  3. 3. WHY DOES FORM DESIGN MATTER? 3
  4. 4. SHOPPING http://www.flickr.com/photos/radiofree/150535853/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/stitch/187139723/ 4
  5. 5. SHOPPING ONLINE 5
  6. 6. ACCESS Images from Flickr users katielips, pealco, and *nathan 6
  7. 7. ACCESS ONLINE 7
  8. 8. DATA INPUT 8
  9. 9. DATA INPUT ONLINE 9
  10. 10. Why Forms Matter • How customers “talk” to companies online • Commerce ($) • User: Enable purchasing • Business: Maximize sales • Access (membership) • User: Enable participation • Business: Increase customers & grow communities • Engagment • User: Enable information entry & manipulation • Business: Accumulate content & data 10
  11. 11. Design Principles • Minimize the pain • No one likes filing in forms • Smart defaults, inline validation, forgiving inputs • Illuminate a path to completion • Consider the context • Familiar vs. foreign • Frequently used vs. rarely used • Ensure consistent communication • Errors, Help, Success • Single voice despite many stakeholders 11
  12. 12. Multiple Data Sources • Usability Testing • Errors, issues, assists, completion rates, time spent per task, satisfaction scores • Customer Support • Top problems, number of incidents • Best Practices • Common solutions, unique approaches • Site Tracking • Completion rates, entry points, exit points, elements utilized, data entered BUSINESS OF DESIGN, EBAY INC. APRIL 2004 12
  13. 13. Design Patterns Visual Communication Information Affordances + Engagement Interaction Disclosure + Response Feedback Verification 13
  14. 14. INFORMATION 14
  15. 15. Information • Layout • Label positioning • Content groupings • Input Affordances • Formats, required fields • Actions • Primary & secondary • Help & Tips • Visual Hierarchy 15
  16. 16. Top Aligned Labels • When data being collected is familiar • Minimize time to completion • Require more vertical space • Spacing or contrast is vital to enable efficient scanning • Flexibility for localization and complex inputs 16
  17. 17. Top-aligned Labels 17
  18. 18. Right Aligned Labels • Clear association between label and field • Requires less vertical space • More difficult to just scan labels due to left rag • Fast completion times 18
  19. 19. Right-aligned labels 19
  20. 20. Left Aligned Labels • When data required is unfamiliar • Enables label scanning • Less clear association between label and field • Requires less vertical space • Changing label length may impair layout 20
  21. 21. Left-aligned labels 21
  22. 22. Eye-tracking Data • July 2006 study by Matteo Penzo • Left-aligned labels • Easily associated labels with the proper input fields • Excessive distances between labels inputs forced users to take more time • Right-aligned labels • Reduced overall number of fixations by nearly half • Form completion times were cut nearly in half • Top-aligned labels • Permitted users to capture both labels & inputs with a single eye movement’ • Fastest completion times 22
  23. 23. • For reduced completion times & familiar data input: top aligned BEST PRACTICE • When vertical screen space is a constraint: right aligned • For unfamiliar, or advanced data entry: left aligned 23
  24. 24. Required Form Fields • Indication of required fields is most useful when • There are lots of fields • But very few are required • Enables users to scan form to see what needs to be filled in • Indication of optional fields is most useful when • Very few fields are optional • Neither is realy useful when • All fields are required 24
  25. 25. All fields required 25
  26. 26. All fields required 26
  27. 27. Most fields required 27
  28. 28. Few fields optional 28
  29. 29. 29
  30. 30. 30
  31. 31. • Try to avoid optional fields • If most fields are required: indicate optional fields BEST PRACTICE • If most fields are optional: indicate required fields • Text is best, but * often works for required fields • Associate indicators with labels 31
  32. 32. Field Lengths • Field lengths can provide valuable affordances • Appropriate field lengths provide enough space for inputs • Random field lengths may add visual noise to a form 32
  33. 33. 33
  34. 34. 34
  35. 35. 35
  36. 36. • When possible, use field length as an affordance BEST PRACTICE • Otherwise consider a consistent length that provides enough room for inputs 36
  37. 37. Content Grouping • Content relationships provide a structured way to organize a form • Groupings provide • A way to scan information required at a high level • A sense of how information within a form is related 37
  38. 38. Lots of content grouping 38
  39. 39. Excessive visual noise 39
  40. 40. Minimum amount necessary 40
  41. 41. 41
  42. 42. Minimum amount necessary 42
  43. 43. 43
  44. 44. • Use relevant content groupings to organize forms BEST PRACTICE • Use the minimum amount of visual elements necessary to communicate useful relationships 44
  45. 45. Actions • Not all form actions are equal • Reset, Cancel, & Go Back are secondary actions: rarely need to be used (if at all) • Save, Continue, & Submit are primary actions: directly responsible for form completion • The visual presentation of actions should match their importance 45
  46. 46. 46
  47. 47. 47
  48. 48. • Avoid secondary actions if possible BEST PRACTICE • Otherwise, ensure a clear visual distinction between primary & secondary actions 48
  49. 49. Help & Tips • Help & Tips are useful when: Asking for unfamiliar data • Users may question why data is being requested • There are recommended ways of providing data • Certain data requests are optional • • However, Help & Tips can quickly overwhelm a form if overused • In these cases, you may want to consider a dynamic solution • Automatic inline exposure • User activated inline exposure • User activated section exposure 49
  50. 50. Help Text 50
  51. 51. Lots of Help/Tips 51
  52. 52. 52
  53. 53. Automatic inline exposure 53
  54. 54. Automatic inline exposure 54
  55. 55. User-activated inline exposure 55
  56. 56. User-activated inline exposure 56
  57. 57. User-activated section exposure 57
  58. 58. • Minimize the amount of help & tips required to fill out a form • Help visible and adjacent to a data BEST PRACTICE request is most useful • When lots of unfamiliar data is being requested, consider using a dynamic help system 58
  59. 59. INTERACTION 59
  60. 60. Interaction • Path to Completion • “Tabbing” • Progressive Disclosure • Exposing dependencies 60
  61. 61. Path to Completion • Primary goal for every form is completion • Every input requires consideration & action • Remove all unnecessary data requests • Enable flexible data input • Provide a clear path • Enable smart defaults 61
  62. 62. Remove Unnecessary Inputs 62
  63. 63. Flexible Data Input (555) 123-4444 555-123-4444 555 123 4444 555.123.4444 5551234444 63
  64. 64. Smart Defaults 64
  65. 65. Path to Completion 65
  66. 66. Clear Path to Completion 66
  67. 67. Path to completion 67
  68. 68. • Remove all unnecessary data requests • Enable smart defaults BEST PRACTICE • Employ flexible data entry • Illuminate a clear path to completion • For long forms, show progress & save 68
  69. 69. Tabbing • Many users interact with a form by “tabbing” between fields • Proper HTML markup can ensure tabbing works as expected • Multi-column form layouts may conflict with expected tabbing behavior 69
  70. 70. 70
  71. 71. • Remember to account for tabbing behavior • Use the tabindex BEST PRACTICE attribute to control tabbing order • Consider tabbing expectations when laying out forms 71
  72. 72. Progressive Disclosure • Not all users require all available options all the time • Progressive disclosure provides additional options when appropriate • Advanced options • Gradual engagement 72
  73. 73. Exposing Options 73
  74. 74. Exposing Options 74
  75. 75. Dialog 75
  76. 76. Progressive Disclosure 76
  77. 77. Gradual Engagement 77
  78. 78. 78
  79. 79. • Map progressive disclosure to prioritized user needs BEST PRACTICE • Most effective when user-initiated • Maintain a consistent approach 79
  80. 80. Selection Dependent Inputs • Sometimes an initial data input requires or enables additional inputs • More options become available because of an initial input • Further clarification required due to initial input 80
  81. 81. Selection Dependent Inputs 81
  82. 82. Page Level 82
  83. 83. Section Tabs 83
  84. 84. Section Finger Tabs 84
  85. 85. Section Selectors 85
  86. 86. Expose Below 86
  87. 87. Expose Within 87
  88. 88. Inactive Until Selected 88
  89. 89. Exposed & Grouped 89
  90. 90. Exposing Dependent Inputs • Page Level • Requires additional step • Section Tabs • Often go unnoticed • Require smart defaults • Finger Section Tabs • Follow path to completion scan line • Section Selectors • Effectively Group information • Hide some options • Expose Below & Expose Within • Potential for confusion • Inactive Until Selected & Exposed within Groups • Association between primary selection is impaired 90
  91. 91. • Maintain clear relationship between initial selection options BEST PRACTICE • Clearly associate additional inputs with their trigger • Avoid “jumping” that disassociates initial selection options 91
  92. 92. FEEDBACK 92
  93. 93. Feedback • Inline validation • Assistance • Errors • Indication & Resolution • Progress • Indication • Success • Verification 93
  94. 94. Inline Validation • Provide direct feedback as data is entered • Validate inputs • Suggest valid inputs • Help users stay within limits 94
  95. 95. Password Validation 95
  96. 96. Unique User Name Validation 96
  97. 97. Valid Input Suggestions 97
  98. 98. Maximum Character Count 98
  99. 99. • Use inline validation for inputs that have potentially high error BEST PRACTICE rates • Use suggested inputs to disambiguate • Communicate limits 99
  100. 100. Errors • Errors are used to ensure all required data is provided and valid • Clear labels, affordances, help/tips & validation can help reduce errors • But some errors may still occur • Provide clear resolution in as few steps as possible 100
  101. 101. Error Messaging 101
  102. 102. Short Forms: too much? 102
  103. 103. Short Forms 103
  104. 104. Short Forms 104
  105. 105. 105
  106. 106. • Clearly communicate an error has occurred: top placement, visual contrast • Provide actionable BEST PRACTICE remedies to correct errors • Associate responsible fields with primary error message • “Double” the visual language where errors have occurred 106
  107. 107. Progress • Sometimes actions require some time to process • Form submission • Data calculations • Uploads • Provide feedback when an action is in progress 107
  108. 108. Disable Submit Button 108
  109. 109. • Provide indication of tasks in progress BEST PRACTICE • Disable “submit” button after user clicks it to avoid duplicate submissions 109
  110. 110. Success • After successful form completion confirm data input in context • On updated page • On revised form • Provide feedback via • Message (removable) • Animated Indicator 110
  111. 111. 111
  112. 112. 112
  113. 113. Animated Indication 113
  114. 114. • Clearly communicate a data submission has been successful BEST PRACTICE • Provide feedback in context of data submitted 114
  115. 115. Additional Tips • Avoid changing inputs provided by users • With later inputs • After an error has occurred • Let users know if difficult to obtain information is required prior to sending them to a form 115
  116. 116. Accessibility & Mark-up • Use <label> tags to associate labels with inputs • Properly read by screen readers • Most browsers treat text with <label> tags as clickable: larger actions • Use the tabindex attribute to provide a “tabbing” path • Provides control over tabbing order • Enables forms to be navigated by keyboard • Consider the accesskey attribute for additional keyboard support • Direct access to associated input fields • Consider <fieldset> to group related form fields 116
  117. 117. Web Form Creation Tools • Wufoo • http://www.wufoo.com • Form Assembly • http://www.formassembly.com • icebrrg • http://www.icebrrg.com 117
  118. 118. For more information… • Functioning Form • www.lukew.com/ff/ • Web Form Design Best Practices • www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/webforms/ • Winter 2008 • Drop me a note • luke@lukew.com 118

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