Getting the most out of your forms: Usability Part 2

What else makes a good form?

As a continuation of last week’s post, today I’m writing about a few more usability issues you might want to consider as you build your forms.

Choose the correct input format

When you use the Form Builder, you can choose from many different types of answers. Before you choose your answer type, think about what would make it easiest for your visitors to answer the question. If there are only a couple valid answers, don’t use free text inputs. Utilize dropdown menus, radio buttons, and select boxes to help your respondents get through your form faster. For quick reference, here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

  Advantages Disadvantages
Checkboxes Easy to select multiple options; See all options at once Longer lists take up lots of screen space; Can be overwhelming
Radio buttons See all options at once Longer lists take up lots of screen space; Can be overwhelming
Dropdowns Familiar; User cannot enter unacceptable answer Can only see one option at first; Scrolling lists can be difficult to navigate
Multi Select Lists See multiple options at once; Conserve screen space; Select multiple options Many people don’t know how to select multiple options; lists often difficult to read
Free text inputs Versatile; user can enter (almost) any answer Subject to typos; May increase time spent and confusion

Use default values when possible

Once you’ve chosen the answer type for your questions, consider reducing the number of clicks for your visitors by marking default values. In the Form Builder, you can mark any answer of a multiple choice question as a default answer. If you need to use free text inputs, you can prefill the input box with sample text to guide your respondents toward the correct format for their answers.
There is, however, one special case where you should never use default values. If you are asking your respondent to opt-in to anything (e.g. signing up for a newsletter, agreeing to terms of service), you should allow the user to explicitly choose an answer.

Create meaningful partitions

As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s best to keep your forms short. Whenever possible, keep your form to one page and make sure that everything (including the submit button) are visible without scrolling. Use the Form Builder’s sections to visually define meaningful groups of questions. If your form is longer than one screen, use multiple pages instead of requiring the user to scroll. Include “Page 1 of x” on the page so your visitors know where they are in the process. You may want to make this the title of the page. To modify a page’s title in Form Builder, click the Page in the Outline panel.
It’s also good practice to make sure your form is spread out evenly across the pages. Avoid displaying 10 questions on one page and 3 on another, as doing this makes it difficult for visitors to gauge their progress, even if “Page x of x” is at the top of each page.

Focus on your respondent’s experience

These first two posts in the series on getting the most out of your forms have focused on ways to build your form to create a better experience for your respondent. In the next few posts, I’ll cover strategies for writing compelling forms and round up a few ways you can further improve your respondents’ experience with your forms. Stay tuned!

Don’t just collect data — leverage it.