Business Problems and Customer Service
Web Usability - ALERT! Dominant Users and Focus Groups

Are Your Online Forms Usable?

It is difficult to go online and not come across an online form. From short to long, online forms are everywhere.  My most recent experience required me to fill out a long form just to watch a video clip.  Where is the justification in taking five minutes to fill out an online form to watch a two minute news video clip?  Before using forms on a web site spend some time thinking through the process from a user’s vantage. 

Questions you should ask yourself:

  • Is the form easy to use?
  • Has the form been tested?
  • Am I building enough trust to compel someone to fill out my form?

Ease of Use
Keep online forms short and easy to use.  Shopping carts are a perfect example.  Users abandon shopping carts because of poor usability factors.  Check your web log data to make sure people aren’t bouncing out during checkout.  Shopping cart forms can be too long or cumbersome for users.  Always think from a user’s perspective. Let the user know if the item is actually in stock before filling out any information.  Use an indicator bar on each page to show checkout progress.  Disclose shipping options up front.  Users can be quickly turned off by high shipping rates.  Make the checkout process as painless as possible.  If it isn’t a shopping cart keep the form short and too the point. Only ask for minimal information, name and email.  Asking for more without user trust is very difficult.

Test Your Forms
Always test online forms with your user base.  Take a few people from your demographic and have them go through your online form.  Take note of where users are encountering usability problems and make applicable corrections. The benefit of usable forms speaks for itself.  More users will fill out more forms if they’re usable.

Build Trust
A number of web sites are now requesting you to fill out personal information to watch video or listen to audio.  Trust and credibility are large factors in determining if users enter their personal information.  Most people are reluctant to enter any personal information.  Can users really be blamed? Everyone has felt the effects of SPAM.  SPAM is beyond annoying and a waste of time.  The user needs a very good reason to give up personal information.  One of the easiest ways to overcome this hurdle is with a privacy statement and promise not to SPAM.  Let people know exactly why you need their information.

The bottom line on forms is this: build enough trust with the user to have them fill out an online form.  When you’ve established the user’s trust, make it an easy process to collect their information.  The Internet is an interactive medium, keep that interactivity usable.

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