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Yes, UI Forms Can Be Too Easy To Use

Best practices on form design.


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Nick Groeneveld

a year ago | 4 min read

One of the most common lessons we learn as young (UX) designers is to make everything you design as easy to use as possible by keeping the user in mind.

Well-known sayings from the field of design include “don’t make me think” and “keep it simple.”

We enforce these sayings by applying best practices like the three-click-rule and designing above the fold. Yet, as a UX designer, you could be doing too much in terms of designing easy-to-use products.

By making your forms too easy to use you could hurt the usability of your design. It could cost you tons of money as well. Here’s what to do instead.

Forms that are too easy to use could cost you millions

You must think that I’ve lost my mind. Everybody knows that a form should be easy, intuitive, and short. You can read about it in more tutorials and how-to’s than you can count. It is common knowledge. But let me ask you this. Can a form be too easy to complete?

As it turns out, yes, a form could be too easy to complete.

You can make a form so easy that your users will either have trust issues or will judge your website to be unprofessional, broken, or perhaps even a scam.

In fact, HubSpot found out that having a form with two or three text fields generally performs better than a form with only one text field.

An example

LinkedIn got itself a class action lawsuit in 2015 for making it so easy to send emails to contacts that many users didn’t even know they were doing so until it was too late.

LinkedIn eventually settled and was, in addition to paying 13 million dollars, required to better explain how all of their features work.

“The settlement, which must be approved by Judge Koh, also calls for LinkedIn to better explain how “Add Connections” works and to make it easier for users to opt out of it.”

Stay away from using dark patterns where you design a one-text-field-form just to reveal all the other necessary text fields after the user submits the first form. This is a situation where following UX guidelines to the extreme actually provides you with a worse experience.

Tips and tricks on how you can improve the usability of forms

Don’t get me wrong. You should try and design your form to be very easy. That being said, don’t remove as many elements as possible just for the case of having a form that is as short as possible. Here’s what to do instead.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

1. Use trust signals and special indicators

As a rule of thumb, try to design your forms to be as easy (and short) as possible, without removing important information like trust signals or special indicators.

“I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” — Blaise Pascal

Trust signals or special indicators can include labels and icons such as secure connection, company trademarks, or, believe it or not, the name text field.

2. Apply the reciprocity principle

Speaking of which. You probably do not need your users to tell you their names. However, users respond very well to forms that include the ‘name’ text field.

That’s because it is polite to introduce yourself before you ask someone for something. In design, we call this the reciprocity principle.

Filling out a form is like speaking to someone at the front office of a hotel or club. The clerk will ask you your name and what you’re here for. Based on your answers he might ask for further details.

This back-and-forth question-and-answer type of conversation is how a form works as well. You don’t have to greet someone or ask someone’s name. However, it is user-friendly and will therefore put your users more at ease.

3. Break up your long forms

It could happen that you have to design a form for a product that requires a lot of user input. Even after multiple tries of optimising the form you still have a long form in front of you.

This happens and it is okay. You can fix the potential issue of having a long form that works poorly by breaking up the form into multiple pages. Divide your form into sections and display one section per page.

Pagination for long forms has often shown a great increase in the conversion rate of the form. Breaking up a long form into a multi-page form will help users understand the shorter forms, motivate users to keep going, and reduce the overall cognitive load of the form.

Form usability is about more than just the number of fields

Keeping your forms short and simple is important. However, short forms have downsides as well. For example, forms that are too short can be experienced as untrustworthy, which in turn can hurt the conversion rate of your form.

But then again, the conversion rate of a form is determined by far more than just the number of text fields. It will also depend on the first impression of the entire landing page, not just the form. That first impression is created based on loading speed, branding, and so much more.

In addition, the industry you’re in plays a part in determining the amount of user input that is required. Just imagine. A form about getting a mortgage will require more user input than, let us say, a form that gets you a new magazine subscription.

Final words

Continue to improve your forms but do not overdo it by removing every element just for the sake of making your form shorter.

Think about every text field, the value it brings, and how it may affect your users before you decide to remove it. Sometimes it is better to keep a text field if it helps either the user or the business. It is up to you to find the balance.

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Nick Groeneveld

Designer & consultant. Working on providing designers the tools they need. Join the Designer’s Toolbox at https://bit.ly/jointhedesignerstoolbox


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