Getting the most out of your forms: Usability Part 1

What makes a good web form?

The concept of a form is simple and timeless: your respondents have information, and you want to collect that information. However, everyone has had experience with a poorly designed form at some point. We want to help you and your visitors avoid the same mistakes. In this four-part blog series, I’m going to address some of the most basic aspects of form design that can help you get more out of your forms.

Create a clear path

Make sure your web form leads respondents logically from the beginning to the “submit” button.
Visually, line up all your questions on the left side of the screen (for left-to-right languages). This enables your respondents to scan your form quickly. Avoid distracting images or colors in the background of your form, since these will lead your user’s eye away from the questions. Though you have many layout options in FormAssembly–including inline and grid layouts–it’s best to stick with one-column left-aligned forms unless absolutely necessary.
Conceptually, make sure that your questions flow in a logical order. In general, move from easy questions to difficult questions. Easy questions are name, address, etc.—information respondents don’t really have to think about. Difficult questions are those that ask the respondent to answer in her own words. Think of the easy questions as warm-ups for the big questions that will contain the most important information.

Only display necessary information

Think critically about what information your web form asks for and provides. Instructions should be clear and concise. It’s best to provide instructions immediately before questions (or use the Form Builder’s hints feature), instead of bunched together at the beginning of the form. Only tell your visitors what they truly need to know.
In the same spirit, only ask the questions you really need your respondents to answer. In one study, reducing the number of questions by 64% led to an increase in conversions of 120% for a web form. The message is clear: stay focused on the information you really need. Each form has a purpose, and every question on your form should support that purpose.

Use conditionals to your advantage

One way you can make sure to only display relevant information is to make use of FormAssembly’s conditional settings. Conditional questions allow you to hide information that isn’t relevant to a particular respondent based on his or her previous answers. Using conditionals to hide questions that don’t pertain to the respondent makes your web form less intimidating and more likely to be submitted.

Think about the respondent’s experience

Above all, think about how your respondent interacts with your form. The pleasantness or lack thereof in the experience can make a difference for your form’s performance and the quality of the information you receive.

Don’t just collect data — leverage it.