3 Links for Designing Better Forms

Because I’m just grateful that someone shared links about long online forms with me

Have you tried designing a 40+ question online form, too?

After trying to make a 40-question form sexy, I now feel like I should be able to wireframe anything*.

*Of course, that isn’t true — that’s just what it felt like, at that time.

Forms are an inevitable part of transactional websites and apps. In fact, even for products with no transactions (registration for social apps, curators, publishers).

And you’d think that a form would be stupidly simple.

Label. Blank. Label. Blank. Label. Blank. Radio buttons.

Facebook — Job Application Form

And, in a way, that’s true. Well-designed forms will make you feel like they’re stupidly simple.

But if you see a sucky form — well.

Maybe that’s what the designer was thinking “How bad can this be? It’s just label-blank-label-blank-label-blank-’OK’ button.”

We wanted to make a 40-question form as easy to answer as possible.

We’d have the leeway to test it, but the reality is — we would only be testing it after it was designed. So, I needed to look for existing research on the matter.

For that, I consulted the UX Community Slack group. And, I’m very thankful that Rob Whiting (@whitingx) led me to a recent Government Digital Service post about forms.

For everyone else, who’s designing forms now, I wanted to share the 3 most helpful form design links that we read during our design process.

1. GDS User Research Blog: How to Choose a Form Structure

“…One thing per page.”

The Government Digital Service is the official UK body for translating all their government services into “digital first”. This means their job is to make sure that the ideal process of government services is through an online platform.

GDS advocates “designing in the open” (which the world should be thankful for). So much so that even the posts that they share about their process and learnings are open for public comments and discussion on Hackpad.

They recently shared their findings on form design. The most interesting one being the finding that progress indicators don’t affect form completion.

From “How To Choose A Form Structure”: https://userresearch.blog.gov.uk/2015/08/13/no-more-accordions-how-to-choose-a-form-structure/

Popular practice involves progress indicators (steps, timelines, etc.) but they found that it doesn’t matter.

I will still test this on our design, though. Only because GDS is a government and non-profit service, as opposed to the digital businesses that I typically work on. People may not mind progress bars when applying for a driver’s license, but they may look for one when paying for a purchase they don’t need.

2. Creative Form and Input Field Design Trends, by Saijo George

Since it isn’t enough to design a usable form. We also needed to look for design inspiration, and George’s post has quite a lot.

3. GDS’ working post on: Organizing Long Tasks

Another post from GDS — which I feel merits its own bullet — talks about their system of chunking long processes. It isn’t only about forms, but gives us a framework for designing steps.

Once our product is up, we’d love to share it here — and you guys can test it out and see what you think: Were we able to apply what we learned?

Where do you go, for form design best practices?

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