Web forms often stand in the way between what a person wants and how to get it when visiting a website. Many people hate filling out these forms, this may be why people choose to log in through social media accounts despite disadvantages in personal information management; there is just less standing in you way between you and what you’re trying to do.
So what can we, as designers do, when we have to request information from the user? We have to ask ourselves, do we really need this information? Which is a tough question; marketing may want some questions programmers may need another set to identify users and then there’s shipping details, profile personalisation etc. Wroblewski’s suggestion is to ask the bare minimum required when filling out the form and then leaving “the fluff” for afterwards – research even shows that people are more willing to answer marketing questions when they appear after form completion. From the sheer number of websites who still ask for gender, for example, it’s clear that this is not a thought process that often takes place.
A lot of great discussions take place, e.g. the question of accessibility; designing web forms for people who may not be able to use the mouse or keyboard. It poses some interesting challenges when helping the user navigate through the form, e.g. solely through the use of the shift key. Accessibility is a real threat to information society as even government forms and bank pages all become online.
The book is fascinating and has many examples. It is clear that he has great experience within the field and in most cases he does research to back it up. The research isn’t always exhausting, so it’s important to be able to analyze and take away key point relevant to you. There is also often a tension between what the user preferred and which designs actually performed the best in terms of completion times and errors. Sometimes it may be a good idea to compromise your completion time if another way makes the user feel an increased sense of saftety.
However the book also, at times, felt a bit forced in length; especially the list of best practices at the end of each chapter felt like unecessary reiterations – however they may be helpful if treating the book as a reference in the future.
Toward the end he presents the term of gradual engagement – e.g letting users fill in bits and pieces along the way and creating a profile from that. This eases the barrier between user goals and site requirements, but may also pose some problems in regards to letting the user understand it’s attachment when engaging with the site. It is only a small part of an ongoing discussion about automatic data-colletion on the internet that is way outside the scope of the book – but an important consideration none the less.
I picked up this book based on professional interest. I had a problem at work and someone recommended this book to me. And for me, for my particular problem…it was good.