Creating Forms That Don’t Frustrate Users: Best Practices

web forms

Have you ever been halfway through filling out an online form, only to abandon it out of sheer frustration? Whether it’s the endless fields, confusing questions, or error messages that make no sense, a poorly designed form can be a major roadblock. 

Creating forms that don’t frustrate users is essential for keeping them engaged and ensuring they complete the process. By focusing on simplicity, accessibility, and user feedback, you can design forms that are easy to use and efficient. Here are the steps to take.

Understand Your Users

Research User Behaviour and Preferences

Before you start designing a form, it’s crucial to understand who will be using it. 

Conduct user research to identify common behaviours and preferences. This could involve surveys, interviews, or analysing existing data to see how users interact with similar forms. 

Consider that 74% of businesses who invest in user research see improvements in user satisfaction and engagement.

Knowing your users’ needs and expectations will help you design a form that feels intuitive and user-friendly.

Identify Common Pain Points

One of the best ways to ensure your form is user-friendly is to identify and eliminate common pain points. 

For instance, studies have shown that 27% of users abandon forms due to complexity or length.

Look at existing forms to see where users frequently encounter issues. Are there particular fields that cause confusion? Do users often abandon the form at a specific point? 

By pinpointing these trouble spots, you can make targeted improvements to enhance the user experience.

Gather Feedback from Real Users

It’s essential to gather direct feedback from your users. This can be done through usability testing sessions where real users interact with your form. 

Observing how they navigate the form and listening to their comments will provide valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t. 

Use this feedback to make necessary adjustments and ensure the form meets user expectations.

Keep Forms Simple and Concise

Limit the Number of Fields

A key principle in form design is simplicity. The more fields a form has, the more likely users are to feel overwhelmed and abandon the process. 

According to a study by HubSpot, reducing the number of form fields from 11 to 4 can increase conversion rates by 120% .

Focus on collecting only the essential information. Every field you add should have a clear purpose.

For example, if you’re designing a sign-up form, ask only for information you truly need, like name, email address, and password.

american heart association
american heart association

A simple form design asking only the relevant and important information required.

Use Clear and Straightforward Language

Complex language can be a significant barrier for users. Use plain, straightforward language to make your form as accessible as possible. Avoid jargon and technical terms that might confuse users. 

For instance, instead of asking for a “residential address,” simply ask for an “address.” 

This reduces cognitive load and helps users complete the form more quickly and accurately.

Group Related Information Together

Grouping related fields together can make your form easier to understand and navigate. 

For example, on a checkout form, you might group all shipping information fields together and all payment information fields in another section. 

Studies have shown that logically grouping related information can improve form completion rates by 15-20% .

This logical organisation helps users understand what information is required at each step and prevents them from feeling lost or overwhelmed.

Design for Accessibility

Ensure Forms are Navigable Using Keyboard-Only

Accessibility is a crucial aspect of form design. Ensure your forms can be easily navigated using a keyboard alone. 

Many users rely on keyboard navigation, either out of preference or necessity. 

Statistics show that 20% of the population has some form of disability, underscoring the importance of accessible design.

Test your forms to ensure that all fields are accessible via the Tab key and that the order of navigation is logical and intuitive.

Use Labels and Instructions That are Screen Reader Friendly

For visually impaired users, screen readers are essential tools for interacting with digital content. 

Make sure your form fields are properly labelled so that screen readers can accurately convey the information to the user. 

google
google registration form

Use ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) labels where necessary and provide clear, concise instructions for each field.

Provide Easy-to-Understand Error Messages

Error messages should be clear and helpful. When a user makes a mistake, provide an error message that explains exactly what went wrong and how to fix it. 

Avoid vague messages like “invalid input.” 

Instead, say something specific like “Please enter a valid email address.” 

This guidance helps users correct errors quickly without frustration.

According to the WebAIM survey, 71% of screen reader users find correctly labelled forms critical for usability .

Implement Real-time Validation

Provide Immediate Feedback as Users Fill Out the Form

Real-time validation enhances user experience by providing immediate feedback as users fill out the form. 

This means users are informed right away if they make a mistake, such as leaving a required field blank or entering an invalid email address. 

For example, if a user enters a password that doesn’t meet your criteria, an inline message can prompt them to make corrections before they move on.

grammarly
grammarly sign-up form

Highlight Errors in a User-friendly Manner

When highlighting errors, ensure the method is user-friendly and accessible. Use clear, contrasting colours to draw attention to the problem areas, but avoid overly harsh or alarming tones that might frustrate users. 

Additionally, place error messages near the relevant fields to make them easy to find and correct.

Use Inline Validation to Prevent Form Submission Errors

Inline validation prevents users from submitting the form with errors by checking the input as they go. 

This method saves users time and reduces frustration, as they can correct mistakes immediately rather than having to go back and fix them after attempting to submit the form. 

For instance, as a user types their phone number, inline validation can ensure it meets the required format, reducing errors and enhancing overall usability.

Optimise for Mobile Users

Ensure Forms are Responsive and Fit Various Screen Sizes

In today’s mobile-first world, it’s essential to ensure your forms are optimised for mobile users. 

A responsive design ensures that your form looks and functions well on all devices, from desktop computers to smartphones. 

Test your forms on various screen sizes to ensure they adapt correctly and remain user-friendly.

Use Touch-friendly Elements for Input Fields and Buttons

On mobile devices, users interact with forms using touchscreens. Ensure all input fields and buttons are large enough to be easily tapped without accidental errors. 

This includes using ample spacing between interactive elements to prevent misclicks. 

Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines recommend a minimum size of 44×44 pixels for touch targets.

Minimise the Need for Typing by Using Dropdowns and Autofill Options

Typing on a mobile device can be cumbersome, so minimise the need for extensive input wherever possible. 

Use dropdown menus, checkboxes, and radio buttons for selections instead of requiring users to type out responses. 

Additionally, enable autofill options to allow users to quickly enter saved information, such as addresses or credit card details, making the process faster and more efficient.

Ensure Privacy and Security

Clearly State Why You Need Specific Information

When asking users to provide personal information, it’s important to clearly explain why each piece of data is necessary. 

Users are more likely to complete your form if they understand the purpose behind each field. 

For example, if you need a phone number for delivery updates, specify this next to the input field: “We need your phone number to provide delivery updates.” 

This transparency builds trust and reassures users that their information will be used responsibly.

Use Secure Connections (HTTPS) for Form Submission

Security is a major concern for users when providing personal information online. 

Ensure that your forms are submitted via secure connections using HTTPS. This encrypts the data being transmitted, protecting it from being intercepted by malicious actors. 

Make sure your website displays a security certificate, as users often look for the padlock icon in the address bar as a sign of a secure connection.

Reassure Users About Data Protection and Privacy

In addition to using secure connections, reassure users about how their data will be protected and used. 

Provide a link to your privacy policy and highlight key points such as:

  • Data storage practices
  • Third-party sharing
  • User rights 

For example, you might include a statement like, “We value your privacy and will never share your information with third parties without your consent. For more details, please see our privacy policy.” 

This reassures users and encourages them to complete the form with confidence.

Test and Iterate

Conduct Usability Testing with Real Users

Usability testing is crucial for identifying areas where your form can be improved. Invite real users to test your form and observe how they interact with it. 

Pay attention to where they encounter difficulties or confusion. Ask for their feedback on what they found easy or challenging. 

Research by the Nielsen Norman Group shows that usability testing with just five users can uncover 85% of usability issues

For instance, you might discover that users struggle with a particular question or find the layout confusing. 

Use this feedback to make targeted improvements.

Analyse Form Performance Metrics

In addition to direct user feedback, analyse performance metrics to gain insights into how well your form is functioning. 

Track metrics such as completion rates, drop-off points, and average time to complete the form. 

These data points can help you identify patterns and areas for improvement. 

For example, if a significant number of users abandon the form at a specific field, it may indicate a problem that needs to be addressed.

Conclusion

Creating forms that don’t frustrate users involves understanding your audience, keeping the design simple, ensuring accessibility, implementing real-time validation, optimising for mobile, ensuring privacy and security, and continuously testing and iterating. By following these steps, you can design forms that are not only user-friendly but also effective in gathering the information you need. Keep the user at the centre of your design process, and remember that small, thoughtful changes can significantly improve the user experience. Stay committed to making your forms as intuitive and straightforward as possible, and your users will appreciate the effort.

FAQ: Creating Forms That Don’t Frustrate Users

Why is it important to keep forms simple?

Keeping forms simple is crucial because it reduces the cognitive load on users. When forms are straightforward and only ask for essential information, users are less likely to feel overwhelmed and more likely to complete the form. Simple forms improve the user experience and increase the likelihood of successful submissions.

How can I ensure my forms are accessible to all users?

To ensure your forms are accessible, design them to be navigable using a keyboard, use screen reader-friendly labels and instructions, and provide clear and understandable error messages. Additionally, test your forms with users who rely on assistive technologies to identify and address any accessibility issues.

What is real-time validation, and why should I use it?

Real-time validation provides immediate feedback to users as they fill out a form. This means users are informed of errors or missing information as they go, rather than only after they attempt to submit the form. Real-time validation helps users correct mistakes promptly, reducing frustration and improving the overall user experience.

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