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Forms that Work


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A great source of form design information for web designers, most important in the new age of web services.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What is a form? What is a form? 1. Persuading people to answer Pick the right moment to ask a question Think about relationship question by question Follow three rules that that influence response rates Think about who will answer your questions Summary Interlude: Registration forms: rules and suggestions 2. Gathering the right information Find out why you need the information Check if your organization already holds the information Find out what others ask for Summary: only ask for information that you need Case study: conference registration form 3. Making questions easy to answer How questions work Make it easy to understand the question Make it easy to find the answer Judging the answer: avoiding privacy errors Placing the answer: avoiding category errors Summary: writing questions Case study: avoiding choice points 4. Writing instructions Writing instructions Rewriting instructions in plain language Cut the instructions that aren't needed Move the instructions to where they are needed A before- and after- example Summary: Writing instructions Interlude: help for forms 5. Choosing between drop-downs and other controls Picking controls for your forms How users expect controls to work Use these six questions to choose the right control Specialist controls may help Think about the form as a whole Summary: Providing the answer Interlude: names and addresses 6. Making the form flow easily Make the form flow easily Use progress indicators Avoid surprising users with sudden changes Be gentle with errors Say 'thanks' to close the conversation Conversational flow - summary Interlude: why we hate pop-ups 7. Taking care of the details Taking care of the details Where to put the labels compared to the fields Colons at the end of labels? Sentence or title case for labels? How to indicate required fields Choosing legible text: fonts and words Summary Interlude: serif or sans-serif 8. Making the form look easy What makes a form look good Make sure users know who you are: logos and branding Make your form look tidy with grids Make it look organized with grouping Avoid two-column forms Summary Case study: an appearance makeover 9. Testing (the best bit) We're passionate about usability testing How to do really good usability testing of forms Final message from this book Appendices Suggestions for further reading References Acknowledgements


"The humble form: it may seem boring, but most of your website's value passes through forms. Follow Jarrett & Gaffney's guidelines, and you'll probably double your online profits." - Jakob Nielsen, Principal, Nielsen Norman Group "This book isn't just about colons and choosing the right widgets. It's about the whole process of making good forms, which has a lot more to do with making sure you're asking the right questions in a way that your users can answer than it does with whether you use a drop-down list or radio buttons." - Steve Krug, Foreword author and author of the best selling Don't Make me Think "If your web site includes forms, you need this book. It's that simple. In an easy-to-read format with lots of examples, Caroline and Gerry present their three-layer model -- relationship, conversation, appearance. You need all three for a successful form -- a form that looks good, flows well, asks the right questions in the right way, and, most important of all, gets people to fill it out." - Janice (Ginny) Redish, author of Letting Go of the Words -- Writing Web Content that Works

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