It’s not you, it’s your form –

5 tips on form design to improve your relationship with users

Filling in a form online is one of the most important points of interaction a user has with an organisation.

And we interact with them often. We fill in tax forms, grant applications, make online purchases or sign up to dating sites.

Forms can be the first step in a relationship with an organisation, or the final one in a journey to achieve a goal. For example get a grant, a drivers license or a partner in crime. Sometimes not filling them properly can carry unpleasant consequences like an interrogation by immigration officers at the airport, or your profile on OkCupid matching you with the wrong date?.

“A form [ ] collects information from at least one party, and delivers it to at least one other party, so a product or service can be provided.”

~Jessica Enders

The role of a UX designer is to help create easy, fast and productive form experiences. To entice users to fill in forms. As form design expert Jessica Enders states, designers should “create an optimal user experience, such that the needs of both the users and the owner of the form [organisation that owns the form] are met.”

The case study

I was tasked with re-designing a product for The Queen’s Fund, one of the oldest charities in Australia. This charity provides small emergency funds to women in distress and their children. The women are referred to the charity by welfare agencies and community organisations. The task was to re-design the online communication portal these social workers use to interact with the charity.

This article is about the practical UX tips used to improve the usability of the charity’s forms.

(For brevity the article focuses only on the funds application form.)

Team effort
I needed to understand the context in which form-fillers (users) used the form. So I asked users for insight and to test what worked and what didn’t. Discovering pain points, listening to their needs and acting upon feedback was crucial for improving the existing solution.

“Gather feedback on a form by watching users attempt to complete it”.

~Jessica Enders

Our developers were also involved in co-design sessions. This was important as the team needed to understand the impact their decisions have on the flow of the experience.

The input of developers is crucial in all steps of the journey, from inception to deployment of the product.

The existing form had most of the information the users needed. But there was room to improve its usability and reduce the workload of the users.

Here’s a selection of the 5 UX tips I found useful when re-designing the form. You can try them should you wish to review or design online forms.

#1 Provide structure
#2 Make it scannable
#3 Make it conversational
#4 Give certainty
#5 Provide a sense of closure

Author: Mario Quintana

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