As enablers of online conversations between businesses and customers, Web forms are often responsible for gathering critical information—email addresses for continued communications, mailing addresses for product shipments, and billing information for payment processing to name just a few. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that one of the most common questions I get asked about Web form design is: “How do I deal with international addresses?”
But before we get into the nuances of address variations, it’s worth pointing out that addresses have a commonly understood structure. Through years of experience with mailing and postal systems, people have a pretty concrete idea of what constitutes an address block. This common understanding is so definitive that eyetracking data suggests, once people begin filling in a set of input fields that make up an address, they often cease looking at their labels. The basic structure of an address is so familiar, people don’t need the guidance labels provide. Read More
In a previous Communication Design column, “Refining Data Tables,” I alluded to the importance of Web forms in online commerce, communities, and creation. As arbitrators of checkout, registration, and data entry, forms are often the linchpins of successful Web applications.
But successful Web applications tend to grow—both in terms of capability and complexity. And this increasing complexity is often passed on to and absorbed by a Web application’s forms. In addition to needing more input fields, labels, and Help text, forms with a growing number of options may also require selection-dependent inputs.
Selection-dependent inputs are, in essence, a pretty simple concept: Once a user initially makes a selection from one or more options in a form, the user must provide additional input related to the selected option before submitting the form. Figure 1 illustrates this behavior by showing two steps from the eBay Create a Download Request form. After an eBay seller selects the Sold option in the Listings and records drop-down list, the form presents additional input fields for selecting a date range. Were the user to select a different option in the Listings and records list, completing the form would require a different set of additional options. Read More
Many articles have been written on what is probably the single most ubiquitous interface element within Web applications today: the form. Forms justifiably get a lot of attention because their design is critical to successfully gathering input from users. Registration forms are the gatekeepers to community membership. Checkout forms are how eCommerce vendors close deals. But what goes in must eventually come out, and the information users provide to Web applications often makes its way back to users in the form of tabular data.
After forms, data tables are likely the next most ubiquitous interface element designers create when constructing Web applications. Users often need to add, edit, delete, search for, and browse through lists of people, places, or things within Web applications. As a result, the design of tables plays a crucial role in such an application’s overall usefulness and usability. But just like the design of forms, there’s more than one way to design tabular data.
In a previous Communication Design column, “So the Necessary May Speak,” I discussed how to reduce the number of both visual design and content elements within a table to the absolute minimum necessary for effective communication. So, I won’t repeat myself here. Instead, I’ll focus on interface design solutions that enable users to find their way through large data sets. Read More