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

Get the questions

  • Read the legislation

  • Decide on measures of success

see: This post has a useful section suggesting range of measures for success

  • Understand needs and goals

see: The question protocol

see: People before pixels – understanding users

  • Observe people using the forms

  • Find out how you’ll use the answers

Write the questions/write good questions

General advice on effective writing for the web

  • Same thing/same name; different thing/different name

  • Use words that users understand

see: Usable forms: deals with language and design

  • 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: How to choose a form structure: no accordions and one thing per page

  • Provide a sense of control

see: Don’t put labels inside text boxes

  • Choose the right UI components

see: Eye-tracking in user experience design of forms and surveys: advice on instructions, labels, error messages, answer options, pre-filled fields

Design tips for complex forms

Basic best practice for buttons

  • Kill your select boxes/avoid drop downs

  • Start your paper form design ahead of the digital equivalent

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: User research panels:

How to look at a form

Expert review of variations on a form and their results


  • Do the hard work to make it simple

see: Discussion of general form design principles

Wide-ranging discussions of making forms useful and usable

  • Make it easy for users to do the right thing

see: Early but still relevant explanation of the three-layer model and what it means in practice

  • 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