That Google thought to create the AutoFill function for users filling out forms says a lot about forms themselves.  They are boring and tedious, the quagmire of the internet, designed, it seems sometimes, only to frustrate and annoy innocent browsers.

It is a sad reality, then, that so many designers of forms seem to have a sadomasochistic relationship with the people who will eventually be using their painfully banal and maddeningly lugubrious forms. What else could explain why forms are sometimes so horrible, other than that the people who design them nurse a secret satisfaction from our irritation?

A Forms is Not Just a Form

While it is possible that form designers really are a little twisted, it is more likely that they just don’t know better.  After all, the first time I designed a form — even after I had used forms that were so absurd they made me question my belief in the rational world — it was rubbish.  It was everything I hated in a form: bland, inaccessible, impractical, ugly, and inflexible.

I had yet to learn that a form is not just a form.  A form is a yet another interactive piece of your website that has great conversion power, if properly designed.  (Conversion power: the measure of an element’s capacity to convert casual browsers into followers, which is the whole point of your website in the first place.)

In the hopes of eradicating all future unfriendly forms, here is a brief list of things to remember when creating a form:

1.  The single most important thing to remember when designing forms is THE USER.

If you keep the user in mind, everything else will flow logically from that.  When designing your forms, just imagine that you are going to be the one using it in the end.  Be nice to yourself, and to your users, and always choose the design feature that caters to the user or makes the experience easier, more intuitive, and more pleasant.

2.      Length

Nobody likes long forms.  You’ve seen them.  They drag on and on and on and on — and what’s worse, they don’t seem to have a reason for being so long.  First consider what the purpose of your form is: are you just trying to get names and email addresses from interested readers?  Then don’t ask about date of birth, gender, interests, income, or any other demographic information that is irrelevant.  The simpler and more concise that your form is, the better chance you’ll have at converting people.

3.      Complexity

So you’ve made your form shorter, but you’re still asking for extremely specific or complex information in each field.  What counts as overly complex? The exact date you bought a car, started a job, or graduated college are all too complex for a form.  Most people remember months and years of important occasions, but the specific day is usually unimportant.  The point is, again, keep it simple, because complexity turns people off.

4.      Standardization

Don’t call for weird inputs, or ask for information in formats that are cumbersome (think phone numbers — there’s really no reason to force users to write out numbers like this: (123) 456-7890).  Just try to make everything as standard as possible, so no one is confused.  This doesn’t mean you can’t design the page to look nice; just don’t make input format unusual.

5.      Flexibility

In fact, let users input information in any way they want.  The best forms I’ve ever filled out are the ones that automatically format the information I input as I’m inputting it.

6.      Compartmentalization

In other, smaller, words: break your form up into sections.  Sometimes forms have to be long, because you really do need a lot of information from the user filling it out.  If this is the case, don’t just have the entire form on one page, un-sectioned or marked.  Guide your users through the form, breaking it up into information categories, and labeling the sections so they always know the context of what they are inputting.

7.      Error Messaging

Great forms tell users when they’ve inputted something incorrectly, and do so in a gentle, obvious way.  I can think of little more frustrating than a form that won’t submit because I’ve done something wrong, especially when the form doesn’t direct me to the incorrect information.  Highlighted boxes, alert icons, and other such features are always appreciated.

8.      Tabbing

NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER make a form that doesn’t allow users to tab through fields.  Enough said.

9.      Help Text

The more complicated your form is, the more help text you should have ready to pop up.  It doesn’t work with all forms, but some forms make excellent use of boxes that appear next to input fields as users tab through them.  Even if what you’re asking for in the field is obvious, it never hurts to add a conversational, casual, or humorous explanation, just to ease the pain of form-filling.

10.  Design

And for meme’s sake, make your forms pretty.  We are in the 21st century; there is no reason your form should look ugly.  Do your users and yourself a favor and make it look amazing.  It will instantly increase your form’s conversion power.

Guest Post by

This is a guest post by Kristie Lewis from construction management degree. You can reach her at: Kristie.Lewis81 @ gmail. Com.