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Death, Taxes … and Forms?


Design Online Forms Right to Remove the Dread

Death and taxes … Two inevitable and taxing (no pun intended) realities we encounter in our lives. Sometimes, filling out online forms feels like a third addition to that pair. Whether it’s completing a mind-numbing registration form for an e-learning course, an online form to attend a webinar, or an evaluation form after a course, forms can often be a stumbling block that keeps us from fulfilling our goal to learn. But forms don’t have to be equated with death and the tax man; filling them out can be a useful, even informative experience, if designed right.

Five Tips to Creating Good Forms

  1. Only ask what you need to ask. Like the KISS Principle (the idea, not the 70’s rock band), only ask what you need to know. Do you really need that piece of information you’re requesting? Remember, the more you ask for, the longer it takes to fill out the form, and the higher the chance of abandonment.
  2. Present fields in a single-column layout. This simplifies it for the users scanning the form and makes it easier for them to fill out when using a mobile device.
  3. Minimize the use of open-ended questions as they require more time and effort to complete, especially on a touch-screen device. Use check boxes, radio buttons, and drop-down lists as alternatives.
  4. Reduce anxiety by adding a privacy message, or link to the relevant privacy policy. People want to know how the information they’re giving up will be used, so it’s best to reassure them up front.
  5. Place your labels (text that tells users what the field is for, e.g., First Name, Last Name, Address, etc.) above or next to the input field (actual form elements, e.g., the radio button, check box, text input box, etc.) to maximize visibility and minimize space usage. Don’t put labels inside fields, as they will disappear as soon as users start to type.

Bonus tip: Avoid including a reset button. There’s nothing more frustrating than completing a form and then wiping away your efforts with a single click!

A woman and some of her coworkers smiling while working in a computer lab.

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