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Web Form Design [Book review]

This book has a very narrow scope. It’s all about how to design web forms. And when you think about it, why not. Most interactions with websites and web application happens through the use of web forms so why not make sure to design them as effectively as possible.

Studies have shown that completion rates of forms can be increased by 10-40 percent by designing them using best practices. If the form is the check-out form on an e-commerce site you can easily see that this potentially can be a good investment.

Luke makes the observation that most forms suck. Therefor it should be every designers mission to make them suck less. Exactly how to do this is explained in great detail throughout the book.

The structure of the book

The book is divided into three sections, each penetrating a different aspect of web form design:

  • Form Structure

    This section focus on why form desing matters and the basic principles of good form design.

  • Form Elements

    The use of different form elements is thoroughly investigated in this section. The question of which element to use in different situations is discussed.

  • Form Interactions

    This part is about the process of filling out forms, how to handle form validation, giving proper feedback and help the user fill out the form.

Each chapter ends with a list of best practices on that particular topic.

On several places in the book there are small articles called “Perspectives” that give a guest writers view on a particular topic. These a written by experienced professionals and authors in the industry.

The book is written in an easy to read style with lots of pictures showing examples and illustrating the points being made. This makes it easy to follow and easy to grasp the different concepts. All images and illustrations in the book can be found on Flickr.

User tests

Some of the recommendations in the book are backed up with user tests. By using eye tracking studies, interviews and evaluation of performance of different tasks different approaches have been tested to come up with a set of recommendations. One example of a test is where the best place to put buttons in a form are. Another is where it’s most effective to place the label to a form element.

You can read about some of the conclusions Luke comes up with in the article Web application form design and in Web Application Form Design Expanded on his personal web site, www.lukew.com.

Summary

I think it’s admirable that someone has actually made a book on such a narrow but still important topic as web form design. I don’t know of any other book, making this one a must-read if you’re serious about designing excellent web sites and/or web applications.

The book contains lots of good tips, insights and best practices on how to design effective web forms that work with, instead of against the user. And I myself have found that I’m already making good use of several of the proposed solutions in my work.

Title: Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks
Author: Luke Wroblewski
Publisher: Rosenfeld Media, 2008
ISBN: 1-933820-24-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-933820-24-8

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