The third part of our form series is to do with the simplicity of the information you are requesting of the user. I read a great article the other day about the length of sentences on blogs. How keeping them keep them shorter than you would normally as this is easier reading on screen. It also mentioned the use of ‘flowery’ language in online writing and how it can takes longer to decipher (slowing the reader from getting to the point of the post). A similar theory can be applied to a forms field label.
By this I mean asking for information that is not specific enough. For example, using something as simple as ‘choose your username’ rather than ‘username’. This will tell the user that you are looking for new information rather than a username that they have had previously and forgotten.
Formatting? What formatting?
In the spirit of keeping the user informed and unconfused, think carefully about the formatting of the actual design. It is worth designing it to tie in with the look and feel or your website design purely for aesthetics and to help focus the users attention on a nicely formatted, welcoming form!
For usability and legibility, keep the form compact with just the right amount of white space. You don’t want the user seeing the field label at one side of the screen then having to use a ruler to determine which textfield corresponds on the other side! Do, however, keep a little padding between each question to separate one from the other.
It’s nice (and accessible) to separate your form into sections on the one page using tags such as this – <fieldset></fieldset>! It keeps information neatly contained in sections and in manageable chunks (see below).