CHAPTER 8

Clear forms improve users' experience

“Not another form!” Forms, as certain as death and taxes because both need them, are widely despised. That's true even (or especially) when they stand between you and something you want, such as a job, a tax refund, redirected mail, or essential insurance coverage. Common problems with forms people must fill out every day—from the point of view of those doing the filling out—include finding it hard to know:

  • where to begin and end
  • how to navigate the rest
  • what to fill out and what not to
  • what's related, what's not
  • how to fill it out correctly
  • why to fill it out (inspiring thoughts such as “Do they really need this or do they just like to bother people?”)
  • which form to fill out under which circumstances (even more despised than filling out a form at all is filling out the wrong form)

Reasons for those problems include:

  • lack of clear, brief instructions when they're needed
  • lack of logical sequence
  • lack of grouping of related questions
  • excessive, useless or outdated questions
  • more than one title or a hard-to-find one
  • inconsistent, ponderous, and incomprehensible language
  • different styles of type (and other graphic elements such as line and box weights, screen percentages, and colors) for similar kinds of information
  • illegible type
  • type that doesn't change size or weight to emphasize what should be emphasized
  • lack of alignment
  • lack of planning for how the form will be treated, such as
    • filling out with various computer programs, systems, ...

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