The design of forms is a crucial aspect of user experience, whether it is a physical or digital form. Effective form design is essential to ensure that users can fill out forms easily and accurately.
Meanwhile, poorly-designed forms can lead to user frustration, errors, and incomplete submissions. Spending extra time and effort to make the forms far more effective and neat-looking can be some of the most important work you can do.
Of course, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all best practices, as it all depends on the context. That all said, understanding what makes a form design effective and how to make it so can be such a useful starting point.
Therefore, we’ll break down some rules of thumb and actionable practices of effective form design.
Effective Form Design: What Does It Matter?
Creating an effective form design takes a lot more than making it easy to use. You also need to make sure that it’s intuitive and aligned with the needs and expectations of your users. That’s how you can create a more positive experience that can lead to better outcomes.
Here are some perks that you will reap by ensuring the design of your form:
- Improved user experience: We’ve mentioned it slightly before that a well-designed form provides the information you only need. It’s easy to navigate, therefore, it increases completion rates and improves overall satisfaction with your website or application.
- Increased completion rates: If your form is designed with the user in mind, users would feel comfortable filling it out and completing it without too much effort.
- More accurate data: A well-designed form means that users will take it seriously. This can help ensure that they provide accurate and complete information.
- Reduced workload: An effective form design reduces the amount of mundane work required to process the data. This can save you and your team a lot of time and resources.
- Brand consistency: A well-designed form reinforces your brand identity and ensures that users have a consistent experience across all touchpoints.
How to Create an Effective Form Design?
Creating a well-designed form is surely not a walk in the park, but it can pay off in a big way. Let’s explore some best practices and tips for designing forms that can improve your bottom line.
#1. Less is More
In today’s digital world, it’s important to remember that users have a limited amount of mental energy and attention span. Therefore, simplicity should be the overarching principle when designing forms.
An effective form is one that is straightforward and easy to understand. Avoid overwhelming users with too many questions or fields to fill out. Try to group similar questions together and keep related fields close to each other. The goal is to make the form easy to scan and digest.
Remember to only ask for the information that is absolutely necessary. The more fields a form has, the longer it will take to complete, and the higher the chances of user drop-off. Also, when it comes to an effective form design, single-column beats multi-column forms.
Single-column forms are easier to read and understand, as users only need to focus on one field at a time. Multi-column forms can be confusing, as users may have to scan across multiple columns to find the field they need to complete.
Avoid overwhelming users with too many fields on a single page. If your form is long or complex, you can break it into multiple steps or sections. This helps users focus on one set of fields at a time, reducing cognitive load and making the form feel more manageable for them.
#2. Use Clear and Concise Language
When users encounter language that is difficult to understand in a form, they must spend more time and energy processing the information, which can lead to confusion and frustration. By using everyday language that is conversational, you can help them digest all the information and complete the form effortlessly.
Clear and concise language also helps to ensure that the information provided is accurate and consistent. Ambiguous or open-to-interpretation information can lead to incorrect or inconsistent information, which makes the form prone to errors and inaccuracies in the data collected.
#3. Consider User Preferences and Expectations
If you design a form with users in mind, you allow yourself to meet user expectations and preferences. This is where the opportunities to engage more users become much higher.
When you feel that the form is tailored to their needs, they are more inclined to actively participate, provide accurate information, and complete the form.
Well-tailored form designs allow users to set their preferences or provide options based on their previous interactions, you can create a more personalized form experience. This can result in increased user satisfaction and a sense of control over the form-filling process.
#4. Prioritize Form Field Order
The form field order directly impacts the user experience. By organizing the fields in a logical and intuitive manner, you reduce cognitive load and friction for users. They can navigate the form more easily, understand the flow, and complete it efficiently.
A well-prioritized form field order also encourages user engagement and increases the likelihood of form completion.
When users encounter a form that follows a logical sequence, they are more likely to stay engaged and progress through the form without frustration or confusion. This reduces the chances of abandonment.
Critical or sensitive information should be placed strategically within the form to maintain user engagement. If you require sensitive data like credit card information, it’s generally recommended to position such fields toward the end of the form.
In other words, prioritizing from field order means that you minimize the cognitive effort required from users to understand and respond to each field.
Users can anticipate the next expected input, making the form-filling process feel intuitive and seamless. That’s how you can improve user satisfaction and reduce the mental strain of completing the form.
#5. Use Visual Hierarchy
Heavy-text, bulky forms can appear more of a chore for users to complete. To make it easier on the eye, consider incorporating visual cues like font size, color, and spacing. These elements come in handy to guide users’ attention and emphasize the most important fields or questions.
You can use contrasting colors to differentiate between different sections of the form. For example, using a different background color or border for the required fields can help users identify which fields are mandatory to fill out and which are optional.
The layout is also an important factor here. By organizing information into logical sections and using white space to separate different elements, users can easily navigate the form and understand the relationship between different pieces of information.
#6. Provide Clear Instructions
Clear instructions are often one of the most overlooked aspects of an effective form design. No matter how brilliant the questions you asked are, if users have no idea what they should do with the fields, it will end up in an increased drop-off.
A simple form doesn’t guarantee that everyone understands what they should do with the forms and how they should do it.
When you provide straightforward and clear instructions, you make it much easier for them to understand what information is required and how to complete the form correctly. This is how you make them feel confident and comfortable completing the form.
So, always make sure that you also include a brief explanation of what the form is all about and what you expect your users to complete and guide them through each field.
If you have quite long instructions that you can’t add to the form, you can also consider adding a link to a short explainer video content to show a more detailed and in-depth explanation.
#7. Use Smart Defaults
Smart defaults are pre-filled values in form fields that are automatically populated based on user data or system defaults.
Smart defaults help users fill out forms faster and more accurately. For example, the default country could be pre-selected based on the user’s IP address.
Smart defaults save users time and effort by prefilling form fields with values that are likely to be appropriate or commonly selected. This reduces friction and streamlines the form completion process, enhancing the overall user experience.
It can also come in handy for reducing errors. By providing sensible default values, you can help prevent user errors or omissions.
If a field has a default value that is frequently used or aligns with the user’s expectations, it reduces the likelihood of them accidentally submitting incorrect or incomplete information.
#8. Ensure Responsive Design
In today’s world, people use the internet from various devices, from laptops to handheld devices. That is what makes it mandatory to design your form to be responsive and accessible across different devices and screen sizes.
You need to make sure your form’s functionality and usability on mobile devices, tablets, and desktops are consistent and user-friendly. In this case, you can identify and address any layout issues, overlapping elements, or functionality problems that may occur on specific devices.
Choose fonts and font sizes that are legible on smaller screens to ensure that the text doesn’t appear too small or cramped. You might also consider maintaining sufficient contrast between the text and background for easy reading on all devices.
#9. Provide Clear Error Messages
Error messages are designed to assist users in understanding what went wrong and how they can rectify the error.
Instead of generic or vague error messages that leave users confused, a more effective error message provides actionable information that also helps them to find a solution.
For example, instead of using a generic error message like “Error!”, you may say “Error: The ‘Email’ field is required. Please enter your email address.” for a clearer understanding. Once the user sees this message, they know what to do.
By clearly indicating which field has an error and providing a concise explanation of what needs to be corrected, users can easily identify and address the issue.
#10. Test the Form
Once you’ve designed your form, conduct user testing to identify any usability issues or areas for improvement.
Gather feedback from users and make necessary adjustments to optimize the form’s effectiveness. This process helps identify any usability issues, areas of confusion, or bottlenecks that users may encounter.
You can collect feedback from users through surveys or interviews that can provide valuable insights. Users may provide suggestions, highlight areas of frustration, or point out any missing or confusing information in the form. This feedback helps inform the iterative design process.
It is important to remember that testing is not a one-time process. This means that you should continuously gather feedback and conduct tests as the form evolves or new updates are introduced.
Regular testing help ensures that the form remains user-friendly, efficient, and aligned with user needs and expectations.
An effective form design is a delicate balance between functionality, usability, and user-centricity. Mastering the art of effective form design helps you create forms that not only collect accurate and valuable information but also engage users, reduce friction, and enhance the overall user experience.
The good news is that you can create an effective form design more effortlessly using AI-powered tools.
Empowering users with intuitive and user-centric forms not only benefits your organization but also fosters trust, satisfaction, and loyalty among your users.
With the actionable practices mentioned above, now you have an idea of what you need to bring to the table to create forms that not only collect the necessary information but also provide a seamless and satisfying user experience.
About the Author!
Andre Oentoro is the founder of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video company. He helps businesses increase conversion rates, close more sales, and get positive ROI from explainer videos (in that order). He also on Twitter and LinkedIn