22 Aug 2018

Forms For Websites

An overview for Small Businesses

With the advent of modern technology and new standards, the face of the Internet has evolved and so have our beloved websites. Websites are no longer limited to being informational portals for business firms that are in need of a communication channel for sharing information with their end-users. In order for a website design to be successful, you have to consider much more than this initial functionality: your visitors and the user experience of your site.

There are many aspects of your website that contribute to the overall user experience. A web form is one of the best ways to get input from prospective clients and indirectly establish a cordial relation with them. The time you spent in bringing the user to your website should be complemented with the time spent in perfecting the user experience, which includes your web forms. A lack of user experience can result in disinterested users and creating complex and frustrating web forms can cause a negative experience.

The following is a closer look at web forms, their role for the user experience, and what you can do to improve them.

The Importance of Using Web Forms

A web form is a medium that allows your visitors to get in contact with you and to send information, such as an order, a catalog request, or even a query, which is passed on to your inbox or in larger examples, a database. Web forms are constructed in programming languages like PHP, HTML, or Javascript. A successful implementation of the code is essential for the success of the form. Many developers turn to third-party solutions to create web forms that produce the best and most desired results.

Web forms can include the following form field: text boxes, text areas, radio buttons, check boxes, dropdown lists, hidden fields, file upload, and buttons.

A web form often acts as a communication bridge that allows a user to communicate with a company and vice versa. Illogical and inappropriate questions can hamper the company image quite easily. For example, you want the users to create an account with your website. Asking for a residential address would be quite irrelevant. The first thing that comes to his mind will be “Why do you need my residential address for just a sign-up?”. This not only causes confusion, but also distrust and chances are good that people don’t go through with the signup at all.

You should know your target audience and market to frame relevant questions on a web form. You can either do the research yourself, or get in touch with a good web consulting firm (ahem, :) ) to evaluate your target market and create sensible questions accordingly.

Designing a Great Web Form

There are a few things you can do to improve the experience your visitors will have when using your web forms. Here's a look at a couple of ideas as well as best practices for better web forms.

Inform the Visitor

Information is the key to a perfect user experience on any respective website. Therefore it is important to educate your visitors about anything they might want to know about filling in your web form. This can for example be why they need to fill in a form to begin with, what happens with the data, or why you ask for certain information. Highlighting the primary reason for filling in a web form is reassuring for your visitors and keeps them from getting frustrated.

Best Practices when Creating a Form

While the above were rather general, here are some more specific best practices to improve the experience of your web forms.

  • Keep it simple. Only ask for information that you really need.
  • Order form fields in a logical way and by their importance.
  • Make clear what you expect by showing examples in front of the form field (e.g. johndoe@domain.com).
  • Allow users to toggle through the form using their keyboard (tab).
  • Offer relevant default values
  • Display clear error messages
  • Use on the fly error messages to give direct feedback and allow users to make instant corrections.
  • Spacing between fields allow users to easily relate error messages to the respective form field.
  • Be specific about your error messages.
  • Save correct data in case the user has to go back to make corrections.
  • Provide feedback when applicable.
  • Highlight or add asterisk (*) to mandatory fields to avoid frustration.
  • Use color combinations to inform the user about his progress while filling in the form (e.g. red for any ‘error or incomplete’ information while green signifies ‘correct’).
  • Indicate steps to make the process of filling in the web form clear.
  • Offer clear feedback after user submitted the data.
  • Test, test, test and test again before implementing to your site.

To summarize...

The best web form is one that initiates user action and anticipates better user participation. Before you start creating a web form, it is important to understand common mistakes that a user makes. Filling in a form should not strike the user as annoying or disturbing task. Therefore it is important to keep it clear, simple, and trustworthy. I sincerely hope this compilation proves to be of help for understanding the importance of web forms and improving the user experience. If you are not an experienced developer find one or a third-party form builder to assist you. As with everything, if you go the third-party route, research what you are getting to ensure it's the best solution. This can mean simple details like if your form inquiry is sent to your inbox or spam folder.

Please give me your feedback if this was helpful or if you run into any types of issues. This is a service that can also be provided by Knackert Media. Once again, it is important to understand that creating form fields in your website can be challenging development.