More advice on creating better forms

This list of posts and articles on better forms is organised around the themes that may form part of a topic map. See the post on creating a topic map: Discussing a topic map for how to design better a form

1. Get the questions

  • Read the legislation

  • Decide on measures of success

This post on Online forms: saving work or causing stress, has a useful section suggesting range of measures for success.

  • Understand needs and goals

See: The question protocol  and People before pixels – what to think about before you start

  • Observe people using the forms

  • Find out how you’ll use the answers

2. Write the questions/write good questions

Here’s some general advice on effective writing for the web: Write clearly: how to take your writing for the web to the next level

  • Remember same thing/same name; different thing/different name

  • Use words that users understand

This presentation deals with language and design: Usable forms

  • Avoid double-barrelled questions

  • Label the button with what it does

See: Labels and buttons on forms and other time-consuming controversies 

  • Put the questions on the page

  • Start with one thing per page

See: No more accordions: how to choose a form structure 

  • Provide a sense of control

See: Don’t put labels inside text boxes 

  • Choose the right UI components

These articles and presentations offer advice on writing instructions, labels, error messages, answer options, pre-filled fields and buttons:  Eye-tracking in user experience design of forms and surveys, Design tips for complex forms, and Basic best practice for buttons

  • Kill your select boxes/avoid drop downs

  • Start your paper form design ahead of the digital equivalent

3. Usability testing

  • Observe colleagues dealing with the forms to understand their workflow

  • Do card sorting with users to understand which questions go together

  • Test at every stage

See: Seven questions about user research panels,  How to look at  the content in a form and this post which looks at an expert review of variations on a form and their results – Making a better web form

4. Principles

  • Do the hard work to make it simple

For  discussion of some general form design principles see Designing forms that work  and Hooray, I’m doing the forms

This post, UX of transactions, has a wide-ranging discussions on making forms useful and usable.

  • Make it easy for users to do the right thing

This is an early but still relevant explanation of the three-layer model and what it means in practice: Making web forms easy to fill in 

  • If you don’t know what you’ll do with the answer, don’t ask the question

  • Make use of information that you already have