Episode #92 Moving Beyond Static Forms with Luke Wroblewski
The world's foremost authority on web forms is Luke Wroblewski, author of the heralded book, Web Form Design. It's no coincidence that we lean on Luke often to join us at events like our upcoming Web App Masters Tour. Jared Spool sat down with Luke to discuss what's been happening with web forms since his book came out. It winds up there have been some interesting developments recently.
Web forms are the mouth that feeds most web apps. There's no way around that. Yet, few people are thinking about how to make one of the more unpleasant parts of the web more pleasant. The world's foremost authority on web forms is Luke Wroblewski, author of the heralded book, Web Form Design. It's no coincidence that we lean on Luke often to join us at events like our upcoming Web App Masters Tour.
Jared Spool sat down with Luke to discuss what's been happening with web forms since his book came out. It winds up there have been some interesting developments recently.
The first trend Jared and Luke discuss is new ways of styling forms to make them less intimidating. Perhaps the most popular form to employ a friendly and unusual form design comes from our good friend Jeremy Keith and his innovative site for finding and listening to MP3 files, HuffDuffer. Jeremy's Huffduffer signup form is unusual to say the least. If you've been a parent or child in the U.S. since the 1960s, you may think the form's design strongly resembles that of a Mad Lib.
In general, anything that reduces the stress of filling in a web form, Luke likes:
However, the visual affordances can make or break the success of the form. Since most web forms haven't changed since 1996, people have expectations. People succeed with Jeremy's form because it's obvious. But poor visual design can ruin a form, as well.
Luke recounts an experience he had at Yahoo! that exemplifies this point:
We had a directory page for the podcasts, and […] at the top of the page we had this input field that was open, which allowed people to tag that podcast episode with whatever terms they wanted. And because people saw that input field and it was towards the top of the page, they immediately thought "search field," and they would run search queries in there. […] it's that sort of muscle memory aspect of, "This looks like a search field because it's up at the top of the page and it looks like an input field. I know what that is. Let me just go ahead and start using it."
There a number of ways that you can validate information that someone enters into your web form, on the fly. When done correctly, this really helps people get through long forms with less frustration. However, if you're too clever with your validation, you can make the experience even more frustrating than it would have been without your "help". Luke provides us with several examples in the podcast. Tune in to hear his advice on how to help and not hinder your users.