Browsing articles tagged with " web design"

The Perfect Data Model, Gone to Hell (MI) Due to Bad Web Form Design

Dec 29, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Modeling  //  7 Comments
Sample form rendered by Mozilla Firefox. (Clic...

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I don’t normally work in the UX/UI design world, but I know enough from constantly filling out web forms that too many designs out there are destined for a special ring of data Hell.  If you’ve followed any of my web form rants on Twitter, you may have heard this before…but it should be repeated.  Seth Godin recently blogged about his frustrations with annoying web forms for data collection:

The problem with letting your web forms become annoying is that in terms of time spent interacting with your brand, they’re way up on the list. If someone is spending a minute or two or three or four cursing you out from their desk, it’s not going to be easily fixed with some clever advertising.

I realize that many web designers live in the US and hate the fact that they have to complicate their beautifully simple designs with all these weird non-US things like regions, postal codes, country lists, etc.  But if their organization does business with non-US customers or data, they need to realize that the design must support these wacky international requirements.  

One of my favourite resources for good web form design is a FREE eBook by Graham Rhind on names and addresses in web forms  Graham specializes in internationalization and address formats, so he is the go-to guy for these sorts of things.

It’s not just internationalization, though, that causes web form design to go all to Hell.

My pet peeve is referenced in Seth’s post: using drop downs to force a user to choose from a list of hundreds or thousands of values.  These are annoying because drop downs usually require acute mouse skills as well as waste time.  Developers love drop downs because they don’t have to do much data validation – if it’s in the list, it’s supposed to be good data.  However, optimizing a developer’s task isn’t always the the best for customers who have to use the form.   In fact, I’ve come to realize that the more we optimize development, the more we have to take from the end user.  It should not be that way, but I see it over and over again.

A typical frustration I’ll face is a form that collect address information.  It will have fields in the same order that we’d typically see a mailing label, something like:

  • Name
  • Address line one
  • Address line two
  • Apartment#
  • City
  • State
  • Other
  • ZIP
  • Country

…with State and Country being a drop down of all the US States and Country being a list from somewhere on the web of a list of countries.  There might be some magic in the country list that then causes the list of states to change based on the country select.  The problem is that as one fills out the fields from top to bottom, he hits the State field before the country field.  He has to jump down a few fields to find the right country, then jump back to the drop down.  If he is very fortunate, this change in country does not require a complete refresh of the form so his data might still be there…or it might not.

Or, the web designer might think that we foreigners should use the Other field to fill our foreign state or province.  They might also beef up their data quality be requiring a State in the drop down, even if it only contains US states.  We users won’t know until we try to submit the form.

When I use forms that require me to pick a US State, I usually go with OH or OR since they are “close” to my Province Code of ON.  Sometimes I pick Hell, Michigan because it’s just as good of a place as any if web form constraints force me to enter bad data.  I’ve always wondered, though, how that impacts analytics for that data.

My other peeve is when Birth Date must be filled in via a drop down.  First one must pick from a list of months, then a list of dates 1-31, then a list of Years going back to the ice age….or somewhere near my birth year.  There are much better ways for web designers to collect and validate data.  I’d love to see business management sit down and enter a couple hundred addresses into their web forms to decide whether the forms are “good enough”.

When users find annoying forms, they are more likely to enter bad data.  Don’t ask me how I know this…let’s just say that there are many records of me out there, happily describing my nice home in Michigan, where I celebrate my 13th birthday ever year, in my apartment number 0000, which also shares a ZIP code with a popular TV series from the 1990s

Love your data; don’t torment it in the hands of end users before it even gets to you.

 

 

 

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