How to Master Form Design: Beginner’s Guide

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Nowadays people are so used to web forms of any kind that it’s hard to imagine a website without one. There are shipping forms, and feedback forms, and registration forms, and it’s no wonder users are so familiar with all of them – almost every company has at least one form on their website.

Web forms are usually made for interaction. They are extremely helpful in achieving goals, whether it’s signing up for an account or making a purchase. If you want to know more about designing efficient forms and their importance, keep reading this article. We’re going to start with the form design definition.

What is form design

Form design is the process of developing a web form, which is an HTML element that gathers information from users. The received data is needed for different purposes and depends on the website’s specific. For example, users are usually asked to fill in the contact information in a form while doing online shopping to get their purchase delivered.

Some forms are short and specific, and others have lots of questions, but all of them are meant to get the needed data and make users’ experience better.

Why does form design matter

Skillful design form can help to increase conversion and enhance UX which is important for any business. Well-thought forms emphasize your professionalism and show users your consideration and readiness to help while badly designed forms can cause irritation and make visitors quickly leave your website. Of course, in such cases it also affects conversion rates, and not in a good way. 

If you want your users to be happy, you should pay attention to the web forms. Make them noticeable, reliable, and easy to use to get the desired outcome. We’ll tell you all you need to know in detail right below.

What makes for an effective form

As you already know, any web form’s purpose is to gather information, so it can be considered effective only when its completion rate is good enough. The main thing you should keep in mind here is the complexity of your form.

It’s no secret that users tend to avoid complex-looking, massive forms. Not a lot of people are ready to spend their time answering tons of questions, so it’s always better to make your form simple and clear. 

There is also such a thing as interaction cost, which means the sum of efforts users have to make to reach the goal. The form that demands a lot of effort is usually the least usable. In other words, there shouldn’t be any incomprehensible questions or errors in your form if you want it to be effective. 

The components of forms

Although the components of forms can slightly vary, they usually consist of the following parts.

– Input fields

Here go any possible fields designed for people’s input. It can be text or password fields, checkboxes, and radio buttons. 

Structure

It helps to create a coherent connection between the fields. For instance, this contains the order of different fields and forms displayed on the website. 

– Field labels

These help visitors to understand the meaning of the fields. 

– Action buttons

These buttons are meant to trigger users to take action. 

– Feedback

The feedback’s purpose is to inform users about the result of their actions. They can get either a positive response (such as “Payment successfully completed”) or a negative one (such as “Payment failed”). 

In some cases, there are additional components. For example, assistance – detailed explanations that help filling out forms, or validation – the automatic process that checks if the inserted data’s valid. 

Form structure

A form is some kind of dialogue, so if you want it to be successful, you need to make sure its structure is elaborate and logical. We made up a few tips that may be useful for you, so keep your eyes open. 

Get rid of the unnecessary questions

We’ve already established that complex forms decrease conversion, so don’t overcomplicate. Ask the questions that are really important and don’t add extra fields for no reason. Always decide what exact information you need from users and how you’re going to use it beforehand. 

Make sure your form’s order is logical

Imagine yourself in your users’ shoes and ask for information in order that would seem logical for them. Asking their city or postcode before asking their name will probably just make them confused.

Divide your questions into related groups 

This is especially useful for long forms that require lots of information. For example, if you need to know a user’s personal information, account information, and contact information at the same time, it’s smarter to create three blocks rather than ask for the answers altogether. 

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Input fields

One of the most vital things for web designers while working on fields is reducing input effort. That’s what you can do about it to make your users happier.

01 Decrease the number of the fields on the page

Everything that you ask users to fill out takes some time and effort, so it’s not really a secret that people appreciate shorter form designs much more. If you’re not sure about the necessity of some fields – remove them. 

Trying to get to know more information about your visitors might seem like a smart move, but in reality, it will only add to your problems with the conversion rate. Remember: the “the less is more” rule, and minimize the number of your fields.

02 Put additional fields aside

If you still think you need to add some optional fields, show users that they are not necessary to avoid their annoyance. You can simply mark additional fields as “optional”, and it will do the job just right. 

03 Choose fields size wisely

It might seem like a little thing, but it is important. If you’re able to choose the field size, do it properly. Users look at the field with certain expectations and can get confused if they’re not met. For example, the postcode field is expected to be much shorter than the street address field. 

04 Use auto-focus

Add automatic focus, which will help users to concentrate on the needed field right away. Usually, it’s better to focus on the first field, in the beginning, to help people start filling out the information quickly.

If you decide to use auto-focus, make it extremely clear. It should be simple yet eye-catching, just like the highlighted field’s borders. 

05 Do not repeat the labels

Many companies ask for email addresses or phone numbers twice. They do it to avoid getting invalid information, and we totally understand it but still wouldn’t advise doing the same. There is a huge possibility that users will simply copy the information from the first field and past it into the second. Therefore, you’ll just increase the number of fields with no benefits. 

Labels

Using clear and straightforward labels is essential. Users need to understand what you need from them without deep thinking, and good labels should help them to promptly scan your form. Try not to use long words or phrases while labeling your fields. Instead, think of one or two words that will fit the most. Put your labels close to the input fields – it will help users to perceive them as a group that is linked together.

The other thing you should keep in mind is staying away from the disappearing placeholder texts. Some web designers like to use them instead of labels, but it’s not the best option. It’s proven that such texts are bad for usability and are not so popular with users since they often forget what was written there. 

It’s also wiser not to use caps lock for your labels. It not only looks like screaming but also makes users read the information slower. All-caps text can be alright when you use acronyms or logos, but if it’s not your case – you better not use it at all.

Action buttons

Actions buttons are meant to trigger certain actions. When it comes to forms, it’s often needed to get the information submitted. Nevertheless, there are some simple rules that you need to know about.

  • Forget about generic instructions

Users always need to know what to expect, and the action buttons are no exception. Instead of using generic phrases like “Click here”, choose something more specific. For example, go with “Send me weekly promo codes” or “Try our FREE program”. 

  • Don’t add too many action buttons

If you have one goal – use one button. Nothing good will come from using numerous buttons that will only distract and confuse users.

  • Dodge “reset” buttons

Such buttons let users delete the information they inserted. It’s supposed to be a great helper, but in reality reset buttons usually do more harm than good. Users can easily erase their information by accident which is pretty annoying. There is also a chance that they will decide to not fill out the form again.

  • Make your action buttons clear and noticeable

If you want to trigger users in the way you need, make sure your buttons stand out and look like the classical buttons. Not like another field or something else. 

Don’t be afraid to style your buttons any way that seems suitable. There are no rules about their forms and sizes, so it’s solely up to you. The only important thing here is that users should understand precisely what the button’s meant for. 

Web form UI

Web form UI (or user interface) is any part of an information device that users interact with. It’s important to continue working on your UI in order to improve the user’s experience of your form. If that’s something you’re interested in, you can begin by focusing on the three vital parts of a form’s UI: structure, layout, and patterns.

01 Structure

To create a great form structure, you need to think of your users first. Decide what exactly can improve their user experience starting from your fields’ order and ending with the way your fields connected. 

Here’s the example of the Booking’s website form that helps to find a place to stay. 

As you can see, this form contains multi-steps. It’s divided into short fields that are clear for any user. People start with filling out where and when they want to stay, and then they are being redirected to the next page with a new form. All the payment information is also grouped together, which makes the whole process much easier and enjoyable for the users. 

Form_design_Booking_Ester_Digital

02 Layout

It’s important to consider the layout of your form’s fields. It can influence user experience as well and should be perceived as logical and natural.

It’s also better to separate different fields to not overwhelm the users. For instance, don’t put account information right next to the payment field to avoid confusion. Users are used to seeing related information together, not the other way around.

03 Patterns

There are numerous UI design patterns that are commonly used by now. We need them to resolve user problems that can happen while filling out the forms. You should use the patterns you find appropriate for your forms, but generally, they are pretty repetitive. 

Let’s take reCAPTCHA for example. It’s used to prevent spammers from using OCR software by asking users to check a box before the form’s submission. This UI pattern enhances UX by making sure users are safe from spam attacks and doesn’t require a lot of effort at the same time. 

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Mobile form design

Many people use their mobile phones to search the Internet so it’s no wonder that mobile form design is extremely important for your website. Here we’ll talk more about it and share some tips that can help you to enhance your forms’ UX.

What is mobile form design and why does it matter

Mobile form design is an act of creating convenient web forms that are easily used on any mobile device. Whether it’s mobile phones or tablets, the texts and the visual content should stay clear and fit for its screens. 

Mobile form design matters because it significantly influences your conversions rates and shows users your website is a friendly zone for them. When everything’s done correctly, they can visit it wherever they want without any obstacles. Hence, the registrations, purchases, and other actions will only have a positive impact on your business.

Four mobile design UX tips

In this section, we have our favorite design UX tips that you might use while working on your user-friendly web forms. 

01 Implement a single-column layout

Although the screens of mobile devices are getting bigger all the time, they still cannot compare with desktop computers. You should keep this in mind when creating your forms since numerous columns are usually not the best option. Choose a single-column layout to avoid unreadable information and let users scroll down the page, completing your form field by field.

02 Enable autocorrect and autocomplete

Autocorrect might be a useful thing but only when we’re talking about the big screens. It’s not always that easy to type in the shipping address or payment information in the small field on the tiny keyboard. 

Filing out such detailed information can take some time, so if autocorrect or autocomplete changes it or interrupts the process, users might get annoyed. Enable these functions to make sure the user information is accurate and help them to avoid retyping all over again. 

03 Make your form nice looking

Since lots of mobile device screens aren’t big, the design of your forms shouldn’t be overwhelming. Make it simple but still nice to look at – it will show users that you care about their convenience and yet stay professional by paying attention to the design of little things.

04 Keep it minimalist

This is the core rule you should always remember. Users never appreciate overloaded websites or large web forms, they want them to be concise and simple. Don’t overcomplicate, use unambiguous language, and keep the minimal number of your form’s fields. 

CTA form design

It’s impossible to imagine a web form without a call-to-action (CTA). There are always phrases like “Download here” or “Learn more” which are catching user attention and making them stay longer on your website. To make sure your CTA will be efficient, you need to work on its design. 

We’ll tell you the main factors you should consider down below, but right now let’s start with a clear definition of a CTA. 

What is a CTA

A CTA is usually a button or a link that redirects users to a certain page and helps to increase conversion. In order to work successfully, any CTA should be noticeable and easy to find. It can be placed not only on a website page but also in emails or on blog posts. Now, we can go over the most important CTA design factors you won’t want to miss.

  • CTA size

Choosing the appropriate size of your CTA is vital. You shouldn’t make it too small since it’ll make it harder for people to see it, but you shouldn’t make it too big either. Huge CTAs might seem aggressive and amateur so it’s better to dodge them. Stick to the golden mean, and you won’t go wrong.

  • Action button

Your action button should always be distinctive. If users can’t define it or understand what it is for, don’t expect good results. Make sure your action button is direct, succinct, and perceptible – it’s more important than may seem at first glance.

  • Font

To get the desired conversions and outcomes, everything about your CTA should be perfect. Fonts included. Users shouldn’t have difficulties while reading your text, so double-check if your font size, color, and typography are fitting. Remember that you can’t create a great CTA without an easy-to-read font. 

  • Special effects

There is no need to get ahead of yourself while trying to create a CTA that stands out, but you still might want to add some special effects to it. To create a striking design, you can simply add gradients, rounded corners, or drop shadows. There are plenty of options that are quite simple but still efficient. 

  • Placement

If you want your CTA to work in the most efficient way, place it appropriately. For example, users don’t need to see it on the top of their form. Instead, let them gradually work through it and add your CTA right under it. People shouldn’t feel like you’re enforcing them, they should see it naturally. 

Form design best practices: 15 most crucial tips

Now, it’s high time to learn the best form design practices. They will definitely help you to create an effective form for your website and enhance your conversions as well as UX.

01 Be simple and straightforward

Once again, decrease the number of your fields when it’s possible and make your form look simple. The fewer efforts are demanded from users, the more willing they are to fill out the form. Ask only what you really need to know and don’t waste users’ time.

02 Arrange your form fields from easiest to hardest

It’s well known that beginning with small steps is always easier. If you want people to fully complete your form, start with the easiest fields. Once they fill out a little bit of information, ask for more. For instance, let users fill out their shipping address before the billing information. It will increase the chance they’ll finish your form. 

03 Align text to the left

It’s natural for most of us to read from left to right, so make sure to align your text (including labels and questions) to the left. Such an alignment lowers the period of time users need to read your information. Hence, it also helps them to complete the form quicker. 

04 Clearly title your form

Title your form clear enough for users to understand what exactly they should expect. For example, a title like “Sign up form for our blog news” surely translates that a user will receive a certain company’s blog news after submitting the form.

05 Don’t ask for phone numbers

Asking for phone numbers can be important for your business, but that doesn’t mean you need to do it right away in your form. When users don’t know why exactly you need their number, they might find you unreliable. It’s also proven that people often leave forms that demand their numbers unsubmitted which decreases conversion. If you need to be able to contact them, ask for emails instead. It’s also wise to mark a phone number field as ‘optional’. 

06 Address possible user concerns with summary boxes

If you need the information that can cause users’ concerns, you can explain its necessity in summary boxes. It can be useful when you ask for the date of users’ birthday or addresses even though they aren’t making a purchase. 

07 Design mobile forms differently

You probably think it’s obvious by now, but let us remind you again: you should always design mobile forms in accordance with their peculiarities. Nowadays it’s vital to execute a mobile-friendly form design to allow your visitors to view your site on any device and get more traffic, so don’t lose sight of it.

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08 Use positive error messages

There is no way to completely avoid error messages, but that doesn’t mean you cannot make them sound positive. Instead of blaming a user, compose a message that will explain why the error occurred and what can be done to correct it. This way people won’t get insulted or irritated and get the possibility to resolve the problem at the same time.

09 Include smart defaults

Smart defaults are good for saving users’ time and can be pretty handy. For example, if you enable smart default, it will automatically enter users’ present location in the form. Such automatic details can also ensure the accuracy of the submitted information.

10 Add progress bars for long forms

When it comes to long forms, it’s always good to know how many questions are left. Knowing the number of questions and seeing the progress also allows users to define the time they’ll need to complete your form. 

11 Name and phone number fields should be one field

It is common for some web designers to cut name and phone number fields into a few different fields, but we wouldn’t advise doing this. There is no need to create separate fields for first and last name or telephone number. The less is more, remember it. Use one field to make it easier for users, and they’ll definitely appreciate it.

12 Make typing easy

Making things easier for users is always beneficial. If you want to help them with typing, make sure you limit the amount of it. For example, you can use autofill if you have good defaults for the field and the user’s history is available. 

13 Indicate if each field is required or optional (unless they’re all required)

If you want to reduce the number of fields but still hope for some additional answers, use this tip. Mark the fields that are optional (or indicate that all is required) and let users decide whether or not they’re going to give you the answers. 

14 Don’t mask passwords on mobile devices

Although it may seem like a smart thing to do, do not mask passwords on mobile devices. Masking passwords will not likely help with security but it will decrease usability. Seeing a row of bullets gives nothing to the users and makes it even more difficult to understand the reason for the login failure. If you still decide to mask a password, don’t forget to add the unmask button and let users choose the more convenient option. 

15 Maximum readability and use

The most important thing you should remember about web form design – it should be easy to read and use. It includes absolutely everything, from the writing space and fonts to the overall form’s layout. Make sure you achieve maximum readability and use it to enhance your UX and promptly get the desired results. 

Top 10 form design examples 

Knowing the theory of designing great web forms is vital, but seeing such forms with your own eyes can’t harm either. So, here are our top 10 examples of amazing web forms. 

01 Hubspot

Hubspot is a well-known CRM platform that provides marketing, sales, content management, and customer service. Its contact page suggests two options for visitors: they can talk to a member of the sales team on the phone or contact customer support. Their form is simple and clear and gives users an opportunity to choose the option that’s more suitable for them. 

Form_design_Hubspot_Ester_Digital

02 Beebom

Beebom is a website aimed at helping people to understand and use technology. Their contact form design is very simple and user-friendly. There is an inserted link with their email address, and that’s it.

Form_design_Beebom_Ester_Digital

03 Grammarly

Grammarly is a popular online writing assistant that helps people to compose bold and mistake-free writing. Their contact form is more complex and is divided into three sections: press, help & support, and sales. 

Form_design_Grammarly_Ester_Digital

04 Nacho’s

Nacho’s restaurants are known all around the world, and their website also deserves attention. This web form is brief, clear, and eye-catching. You can notice that the action button is brightly colored and easily distinguishable too. 

Form_design_Nachos_Ester_Digital

05 Toptal

Toptal is a website that helps the world’s top talent to connect with the world’s top organizations. Down below you can see their web form that is brief and straightforward. The form encourages users to keep going and suggests a phone call after its completion.

Form_design_Toptal_Ester_Digital

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06 Basecamp classic

Basecamp classic greets you with a longer form but points out that you’ll only need around 60 seconds to complete it. The fields are grouped into two sections, and below them, there is the reminder of benefits (free plan with no time limit). It does a great job at encouraging users to fill out and submit the form. 

Form_design_Basecamp_Classic_Ester_Digital

07 Scribd

Scribd is a subscription platform the purpose of which is to share digital publications such as books, documents, and magazines. Its contact form is interesting and eye-catching and suggests users choosing what type of communication they want. Each option then directs them to a certain page and gives further instructions.

Form_design_Scribd_Ester_Digital

08 Leadformly

Leadformly is a great example of how engaging a web form can be. Here you can also choose what your inquiry is about and see a progress bar below the form. The design is bright and clear, and anyone can easily follow the suggested steps.

Form_design_Leadformly_Ester_Digital

09 Yummygum

Yummygum is a Dutch design studio, and their contact form is worth mentioning. It’s engaging, extremely effective, and offers a good experience to users. It also has only two steps. Just take a look.

Form_design_Yummygum1_Ester_Digital
Form_design_Yummygum2_Ester_Digital

10 Upart

This unique form design belongs to Yifan Ding on Dribble. It’s divided into several animated parts that make the whole process similar to playing games. Users will more likely enjoy completing this form, and the progress bar at the bottom makes it even more fascinating.

Form_design_Upart_Ester_Digital

On a final note

It’s vital to create a user-friendly form design no matter what kind of business you have or work for. Caring about user experience is always beneficial since it helps you to earn their loyalty and boost conversions. 

If you’re not sure where to start, think about what type of forms you want to use and check our tips again when needed. In case you have any more questions, don’t be shy and contact us right away. We’re here to help without fail. 

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