Forms: Making them Better

9 12 2009

More often than not, the form is overlooked and rushed; with the thought “as long as it’s in there, it’ll work.”  But why?  Why would you drag your customers through the mud to buy a product or contact you when instead you could send them through Disneyland for a magnificent experience!  As stated, the form can be many things, such as a buying or customer service experience.  So why not make that experience as good as it can be, so that they’ll look back on it and you positively!

Here are some simple steps to help you conquer forms:

  • Style your form!
    • CSS works on form elements, such as form, input, label, button, etc… you can fully customize these. Don’t overdo it, just aim for clean.  Clean = Professional, Professional = Trust.
  • Try not to use tables.
    • They’re detrimental to usability as screen readers cannot identify elements in them.  They really shouldn’t be used for layout purposes in this day and age, use them for tabular data as they were originally designed for.
  • If it’s huge, break it up.
    • Generally if you have more than 10 fields or are dropping below the fold, it is good practice to break this information up onto multiple pages or into steps.  This helps to avoid overwhelming a client, and can make for a less painful form experience.
    • Amazon’s buying process is a great example of this.
  • Validation is great.  Too much is annoying.
    • Definitely cover server side validation to avoid sql injection.  Don’t overdo field validation as it can impede people through your form process.
  • Use label tags.
    • Labels provide usability hinting for the browser, thus helping ease users through your form process.
  • Reassure your customers.
    • When you are collecting sensitive data, make it clear that you are using it explicitly for business purposes.  The internet can be a frightening place and it means a lot to customers.

Need a form with all these options fast?

Nothing beats a homemade customized form. But if you aren’t versed in web languages or are simply in a hurry Wufoo and jotform offer well made forms with a drag and drop interface, as well as hosting on their own servers(so you don’t have to get down and dirty with the backend).

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