Forms that work: Designing web forms for usability

Articles on forms by Caroline and Gerry

The art of writing very little Gerry summarises how to write for forms.

Should I use a dropdown? You are designing a form for the Web and you want to make it easy for your form user to choose answers to your questions. There are five HTML form elements available: drop-down box, radio buttons, check boxes, type-in box and hyperlinks. Which one is the most usable? Sarah Allen Miller and Caroline Jarrett present a four-step process for choosing the appropriate element in this paper (pdf format, 58Kb). In French: Quatre Etapes pour choisir les Elements de formulaire (translation by Cedric Magnin)

Making a better web form This case study (pdf format, 172Kb), presented by Caroline at UPA 2004, shows how a client compared a selection of changes and the only one that made a real difference is editing the preamble.

Setting usability requirements

Sarah Allen Miller and Caroline Jarrett discuss the challenges of understanding and setting usability requirements for a web site containing a form in this paper (pdf format, 42Kb).

The paper:

  • asks why you should set usability requirements
  • defines usability requirements
  • explains how to set them
  • discusses their effect on usability evaluation.

Cost of Data Capture 'Organisations have sometimes been surprised and disappointed when they re-engineer a forms-based data capture process but fail to achieve their anticipated savings', writes Caroline in 'Understanding the Costs of Data Capture - paper, automatic and with the Internet' (pdf format, 573Kb).

The paper:

  • explains how capture costs consist of data entry plus dealing with problems
  • provides an example of costs for an automated process, and for dealing with the paper forms that are left after you instigate an Internet-based process
  • describes four techniques for investigating the costs of your current process.

Selected bibliography of our forms articles

Jarrett, C. (2010) Label placement in Austrian forms, with some lessons for English forms UXmatters.com

Jarrett, C. (2010) Avoid being embarrassed by your error messages UXmatters.com

Jarrett, C. (2010) The question protocol: how to make sure every form field is necessary UXmatters.com

Jarrett, C. (2010) Label placement in forms - and other timeconsuming forms controversies (pdf) User Experience, Lisbon

Johnson, T., Jarrett, C. and Quesenbery, W. (2010) Video podcast: Embedded LInks and Online Reading Accessibility I'd rather be writing, Tom Johnson's blog

Jarrett, C. (2010) Avoid putting a RESET button on your web forms Forms Talk, the monthly BFMA newsletter

Jarrett, C. (2010) Don't put hints inside text boxes in web forms UXmatters.com

Jarrett, C. (2010) Forms and their users: Designing forms for technical specialists Presentation at the European Bioinformatics Institute

Gaffney, G.(2009) The art of writing very little Southern Communicator

User Vision and Effortmark (2008) Report on ballot paper design for the Electoral Commission

Jarrett, C. (2008) Label placement in forms: What's best? (pdf) Proceedings of HCI2008, the conference of the British Computer Society Human Computer Interation Special Interest Group, Liverpool, UK

Jarrett, C. (2007) Problems and Joys of Reading Research Papers for Practitioner Purposes Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 3, Issue 1, November 2007, pp. 1-6

Gaffney, G. (2006) interview with Caroline on Forms Design UXpod (the User Experience podcast)

Jarrett, C. and Quesenbery, W. (2006) How to look at a form Proceedings of the Usability Professionals' Association Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

Jarrett, C. (2005) Matters of Life and Death: an Investigation of “Living Wills” and Other Advance Directives (pdf) User Experience, the Magazine of the Usability Professionals' Association, Volume 4 Issue 3

Jarrett, C. and Minott, C. (2004) Making a better web form (pdf) Proceedings of the Usability Professionals' Association Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

Jarrett, C. (2004) Five factors for choosing forms software (pdf), Business Forms Management Association Symposium

Jarrett, C. (2002) Improving Usability: The Employer's Pack (pdf) Presentation at the Society for Technical Communication's 48th Conference, Nashville, Tennessee (pdf format, 1.8Mb)

Allen Miller, S. J. and Jarrett, C. (2001) Setting usability requirements for a web site containing a form (pdf) Proceedings of the 48th Society for Technical Communication Conference, Chicago, Illinois

Allen Miller, S and Jarrett, C. (2001) Should I use a dropdown? (pdf) Proceedings of the 48th Society for Technical Communication Conference, Chicago, Illinois, USA 

Jarrett, C. (2001) Why users don't complain about unusable forms Society for Techncial Communication Usability Special Interest Group Newsletter, January 2001 issue (Vol 7, No. 3)

Jarrett, C. (2000) Designing usable forms: the three-layer model of the form(pdf), Proceedings of the 47th Society for Technical Communication Conference, Orlando, Florida.  (pdf format, 172Kb).

Jarrett, C. (2000) Understanding the Costs of Data Capture - paper, automatic and with the Internet(pdf), CIMTECH, University of Hertfordshire.

Jarrett, C. (2000) Usability evaluation: what it can tell you - and what it can’t Presentation at the InfoDesign 2000 conference, Coventry, UK

Jarrett, C. (1999) Understanding the costs of data capture Proceedings of the CIMTECH conference, University of Hertfordshire (invited to repeat the presentation for a second year)

arrett, C. (1999) ‘How to’ manual on forms design: guidelines on font size Paper for the workshop “Making designers aware of existing guidelines for accessibility” at INTERACT ’99

Jarrett, C. (1998) Understanding the costs of data capture Proceedings of the CIMTECH conference, University of Hertfordshire

Jarrett, C. and Yates, C. (1998) Usability evaluation of forms Presentation for the Information Design Association, London

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Last Modified 2014-04-23