Learn to design forms that users glide through without doing years of research
Nobody likes using forms
In case you didn’t know, people hate filling out forms.
They only use them to achieve a desired outcome: their holiday is booked, their pizza arrives, their message is sent.
So it’s our job to do everything we can to get them out of the way as quickly as possible. And while there are a lot of details that go into that, most of them are not to do with how the form looks.
And yet, an inordinate amount of time is spent focusing on just that.
All the popular articles that end up in our feeds miss the mark. At best they lack research or critical analysis - at worst, they focus on inaccessible patterns that flatter to deceive. These articles swap out substance for words like ‘modern’ and ‘cutting edge’ to draw you in.
And they work too. Badly designed patterns especially in forms proliferate around the web.
Take a text input. It consists of a box to type into and a label to describe what goes inside it.
I mean you’re going to have to stare very hard at it to come to the conclusion that it needs innovation. But look at Material Design. Amongst many other dubious decisions, they replaced the input’s border with an underline.
God knows why they did this because it wasn’t due to their users struggling to type into a standard conventional text box.
And years later, Google tested their special underlined inputs with 600 participants and found that standard bordered inputs performed better.
I suppose that’s okay if you’re Google and have endless money to waste on researching dubious design decisions years after imposing them on users. But my guess is that you don’t have the time, money or inclination to waste like that. And let’s be honest, users don’t care how fancy or unique your UI is unless it stops them from booking that flight, ordering that pizza or sending that email.
Then they care a lot.
The truth is that so many things we need to know in order to design forms that users glide through have been solved for ages.
But understanding the rationale is crucial. Without it, it’s hard to convince stakeholders and teammates to practice user-centered design because they often have their heart set on such dubious patterns (partly because they’re so prevalent).
Now you might be thinking about how research fits into all this.
And yes, user research is critical.
But the idea that every single design decision needs to be tested with thousands of people is just not true. I mean sure, anything based on a whim definitely needs to be tested (like underlined inputs). But we don’t need to test that buttons with large tap targets are easier to use than tiny ones.
Fundamentally, once you start following the principles of good design, you start to get a knack for these things – leaving research to catch the rest.
That said, designing forms that actually work is hard. But that’s why you’re here.
Let me introduce myself
I’m Adam, a designer based in London, UK.
My mission is to create truly simple products that nail the basics, avoid unnecessary complexity and work for everyone.
I’ve been doing just that for 20 years for the likes of Tesco, BBC, Just Eat, and more recently GOV.UK.
I became so obsessed with form design that I wrote a book called Form Design Patterns (published by Smashing Magazine in 2018).
And while I don’t claim to know it all, I have helped 100s of UXers, UI designers, content designers, developers, teams and organisations transform the way they design forms (and the surrounding product).
I redesigned a checkout flow and increased orders by 2 million a year (that’s orders not revenue).
And I redesigned an appointment booking flow and reduced completion time from 6 minutes to 1 minute.
I’ve watched 100s of people fill out forms. I know where they struggle. And I can tell you the same design mistakes happen again and again.
But it’s taken lot of effort to get to this point:
I’ve spent a crazy amount of time coding, designing, prototyping, researching and learning what works and what doesn’t
I’ve spent loads of time trying (and failing) to convince my colleagues to do good design, not just make things look pretty
I’ve read many articles and books on form design but all too often the practical advice is missing and sometimes it’s wrong or misleading
If any of this sounds familiar to you…
Let me take you from zero to hero in just 6 weeks
The challenge follows my Form Design Mastery blueprint.
It’s a unique and practical system that allows you to design forms that users glide through; how to do it efficiently and how to bring your teammates and stakeholders along for the ride.
No fluff, just a simple process where you’ll learn how to:
- justify every field in your form in order to keep your form as concise as possible
- prototype forms quickly and collaboratively with tools that non-techies can use
- design simple, accessible interactions that work on mobile and desktop
- analyse complex, real world form flows and fix the issues you find
- write clear, concise content for labels, hints and error messages
- help users recover from errors using robust validation patterns
- influence your teammates to carry out good design
Take a look inside
Let me show you around the course platform.
Nail the basics
Unlearn so-called “best practice” and nail the basics. We’ll look at labels, hint text, placeholders, float labels, tooltips, multi-input fields and so much more.
Justify every question in your form to drastically reduce the size of your form without resorting to artificial show-y hide-y interactions. And to convince your colleagues to listen.
Help users avoid errors and fix them easily if one appears. We’ll look at the best time to validate, how to present errors, how to write clear error messages and more.
Handle longer, more complex multi-step form flows. We’ll redesign a real-life checkout flow from start to finish. This includes the first time user experience as well as the repeat user experience.
Speed up your design process by designing forms using tools that anyone can use. This way you can collaborate on the most aspects of your form from the start.
Deal with forms that take hours, days or even weeks to complete using patterns that consider the big and small details that guide users to completion.
Frequently asked questions
Who’s it for?
The challenge is designed to put an end to poor and confusing advice about form design. It’s for UXers, UI designers, content designers and developers who’ve tried blogs and books and still haven’t been able to get clarity on what good form design looks like. Or for people who know a fair amount but want to hone their skills and work more efficiently.
What equipment do I need?
- Google Docs (or similar)
- Google Sheets (or similar)
- Google Chrome (sub for another browser with devtools)
How much time do I need?
I would allow for somewhere between 45 to 90 mins a week. Each week varies in length but this should be enough to watch the videos, do the missions and attend the Q&A calls.
Will this only cover the basics?
I’m sure you know a lot about forms. But we’ll start with nailing the basics as a way to set the tone for everything else in the challenge. The basics act as guide rails and constraints for all of the more advanced topics, problems and patterns that we’ll be going through during the challenge. But there will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions. I won’t let you down.
What if you don’t cover solutions to my particular problem?
Great, I want to know what you want covered and I’ll do my best to incorporate it or address it in one of the Q&A calls. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll tell you - let me know before you sign up if you want to be sure.
Is the material only applicable to sites like GOV.UK?
No. While I’ll show you a lot of things I use in the public sector, 99% of the patterns are applicable to all sectors. In fact, I consider knowing them to be an advantage for people who work in the private sector.
Do I need to know how to code?
Knowing some HTML would be a bonus, but it’s not essential. I’ve had content designers, UXers and UI designers who don’t know how to code go through the challenge without a hitch. The reason I include code in my lessons is because UX is intertwined with the inner workings. But if you come across some code feel free to gloss over it or pass it on to your devs.
Is the course only applicable to websites? What about apps?
The course is primarily aimed at products, services and websites that people use through a browser. But the vast majority of what I teach is applicable to apps too.
Will there be homework?
Yes, there are missions for each week of the challenge. But you can still move onto the next week if you don’t complete the mission.
What if I miss a week?
You can catch up later. I’ll record the Q&A calls so you can watch them back.
Will I have instant access to all weeks from the start?
No, you’ll go through the challenge on a weekly basis. This means the entire cohort will go through the challenge together.
How long will I have access to the content and community for?
For as long as I’m running the challenge (which I plan to be doing for many years).
Join the waiting list
You’ll also get my free email course which reveals the 7 biggest form design mistakes that UXers make all the time.
Yay, you made it to the bottom
See: users don’t mind scrolling.
Think of all the fancy UX patterns that were designed to solve the scrolling “problem”.
But there isn’t a problem.
You’re proving that right now.
You’re still reading.
You’re focused on the content.
Yay, you’re even reading this.
Who knew the footer of a website could be so much fun.
Okay, the end.
Wow, you’re still here.
I should probably whack a few more testimonials here.