Why Am I Being Asked This?

Web Form Design WordleI recently listened to a very interesting pod cast by Luke Wroblewski on SpoolCast titled Innovations in Web Input.  Known as an interaction designer, Luke specializes in web forms and visual web usability.

Luke touched on quite a few topics related to the evolution of forms and form input on the web.  He talked about his days at Yahoo along with the development and impact of Google’s instant search.  He also discussed a new site, Quora, to illustrate how future sites will incorporate profile information from existing sites so that the user will spend less time on data entry.

This idea of entering less and the web “knowing” me piqued my interest and I decided to do some research and look at some of Luke’s blogs on the subject.

In Luke’s blog titled Web Forms for People, he expounds on the impact of Web form design.  Luke is an evangelist for the importance of Web forms.  “Whether it’s checkout in e-commerce, comments on news articles, or managing a fitness routine – Web forms often sit between people and their goals.” How can a site ensure the user’s goals and the site’s goals are aligned?

He recommends focusing on the core purpose of the Web site while designing a Web form. This will keep the users from asking, “Why am I being asked this?” and bouncing off the site before the goal is reached.

He illustrates the point by comparing two sites and their different approaches to gathering profile or user data:  tookmark and Brightkite.  Additionally he shows how Brightkite, with a simple redesign of its Web form aligned the form input to the goals of the site.

Luke recommends asking the following questions when designing a Web form:

  • Is this information necessary to give people what they want (the core purpose of the application)? If not, chances are people will question why they are being asked.
  • Will there be a better time to collect this information? Asking people for information once they are already using an application is often more successful than asking them before they start using the application.
  • Is there a way to explain why certain information is required? Clarifying how the information being collected aligns with people’s goals helps reassure them that they are making forward progress.
  • Are there better ways of collecting the information needed? After all, Web forms are not the only way to get input from people online.

By following Luke’s recommendations, a designer can improve the user interaction and satisfaction with a site. But most importantly, the designer can improve the impact of the site  – the crucial interaction that keeps the business running.

For more information on Web form design, I recommend Luke’s book, Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks.

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About Susan
I'm a wife, mother and student living in the suburbs of Atlanta. After 20 years in corporate IT, I am currently working for a non-profit as Director of Operations.

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