- Series: Aspects of UX
- Paperback: 276 pages
- Publisher: SitePoint; 1 edition (September 23, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0994347057
- ISBN-13: 978-0994347053
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #551,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Designing UX: Forms: Create Forms That Don't Drive Your Users Crazy (Aspects of UX) 1st Edition
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About the Author
Jessica Enders has suffered from a life long condition known as a love of designing forms and other transactional interfaces. She is attempting to minimise the adverse symptoms by running her own form design business, Formulate Information Design.
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Longer version: Back in 2008, two books on forms came out: “Forms that work” written by me and Gerry Gaffney, and “Web form design” by Luke Wroblewski. I’d still recommend both of them – Luke’s is stronger on interaction design, ours is stronger on content design and service design. But – 2008? A lot has happened since then and the Internet has moved on.
With Designing UX: Forms Jessica has filled the gap in a way that is practical and accessible – and will help its readers make a real and tangible difference to the people filling out their forms, and to their organisations.
I’ve had the opportunity to run some forms workshops with Jessica, and I’ve had many discussions about forms with her – mostly by email, as she lives in Australia and I live in the UK. We’ve become friends and mutual supporters. When I got a copy of the manuscript, I was excited but nervous. What if it wasn’t all I hoped?
And of course – it was great. Jessica’s passion for better forms shines through. It’s crammed with illuminating examples that only a true forms fan could have collected. Jessica’s strong background in user research and statistics mean that passion and practical knowledge and advice are underpinned at every point by solid research findings.
I was delighted to be able to recommend it enthusiastically in a quote on the book. I buy it in bulk to give to clients, but it’s OK: I’ll understand if you only buy a single copy for yourself.
As the title suggests, ‘Designing UX: Forms’ is more about the ‘what’ of design than the underlying ‘how’ of implementation. There are illustrations on nearly half the pages – and these illustrations don’t impress by being eye-catching, radical, or glossy – they impress by being accurate and on-point.
The ‘Forms’ are text-oriented business pages that include registrations, surveys, account queries, complaints, support requests, etc. - as displayed on a variety of device screens of various sizes.
Enders presents a well-organized argument for effective, clear, and simple (in the best sense) web forms design that boils down to:
Use good questions in well-sequenced plain language
Use a visually-pleasing layout that reflects accepted cognitive principles
Communicate clearly by using clear and appropriate messages, as well as intelligently-filtered content
Perform client-side validation to minimize user frustration but include server-side as well for security
Obvious? Then why do so many sites -including well-known ones - continue to make life awkward and difficult for their customers?
A clear strength is the book’s organization into three straightforward chapters: Words, Layout, and Flow. I never felt distracted by meaningless sub-topic wordplay and the break down gave me a real sense of immersion in each topic.
The level of detail includes:
Questions: Specifically the use of plain, unambiguous language in questions that focus on a single idea alone is a guideline anyone involved with visual communication, for all but highly specialized audiences, should take to heart. The ramifications are huge and, frankly, I found this discussion alone worth the entire read.
The cognitive science references, including the four stages of answering a question (‘Tourneagu criteria’) and the idea of time-perception as a function of interacting with forms, are fascinating. Yet ‘Designing UX’ is no larded-down thesis: Enders’ own language is straightforward as she seamlessly blends humor, tech savvy, and elements of scientific rationale in a pleasant, engaging read.
‘Words’ also covers positioning help text and prompts, how much content is appropriate to present in dropdowns, selecting appropriate selectors (i.e. check box, radio buttons, date pickers, edit fields, menus, etc.) and much more. Enders doesn’t just write at the service of technology here – she reflects and guides how to address various audiences and cultural sensitivities.
Colors, not just overall palettes, but the use of edit box backgrounds to indicate errors, required/optional fields, and overall form field distinction is covered – including something I’d not seen in other UX books: avoiding certain contrasts people with common color-blindness find difficult to identify.
Large ideas such as the ‘vertical path to completion’ as well as ‘small’ details such as including contact information on every page are discussed. The chapter on ‘Flow’ discusses techniques that enhance the user’s sense of steady, efficient progress – and of course progress indicators are covered, as is filtering inappropriate questions based on earlier answers.
Enders does a good job balancing her personal design preferences while identifying commonly accepted approaches, and pointing out historical trends towards and away from various solutions.
The book’s perspective may skew a bit towards mobile, but the discussion of question formulation, visual principles, and cognitive insights apply to screens of all sizes, as well as paper and signage contexts.
‘Designing UX: Forms’ is not a ‘project-based’ book – although among the varied examples the author uses her own fictional banking form as a recurrent, evolving example. And while the opening chapter (and closing appendix) discuss project context, gathering and managing forms requirements, and using a QxQ for living documentation, ‘Designing UX:Forms’ is far less a formal tutorial than a reference and design ‘style-guide’.
Like many sitepoint titles, ‘Designing UX:Forms’ has a decidedly low-tech, self-published layout featuring blurry borders, a limited color palette, and probably too many wireframes in lieu of actual images. On the plus side, the matte, glare-free pages make for easy reading under close lighting and outdoors.
While presenting her web forms design approach cleanly and clearly, and fleshing it out with visuals that make focused points without distraction, Enders generously acknowledges her influences with numerous well-chosen footnotes that steer readers to worthwhile resources on UX design and the cognitive research that drives its cutting edge.
I recently joined an in-progress web-app project with a UI that’s busy and table-text-heavy. From day one I felt we needed a fresh approach but the Windows-centric GUI design I studied years ago emphasized thick client controls and non-dynamic aesthetics. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from this book that I’m applying today, in our current Agile-based release and iterations. It’s practical, clear, and organized to dip into for whatever specifics you want clarity on.
Read this book if commercial web forms design is part of your job: It’s a far better use of your time than countless ad-hoc quality online tutorials and meandering videos-to-nowhere.
Designing UX: Forms touches important points, including what kind of language one should use in a form, how the form elements and labels should be laid out, and what techniques should be used for professional and consistent look across a variety of computing devices and screen form factors.
However the design of the book itself reminded me of my rushed college reports. There is a lot of padding, using double paragraph spacing and what seems like 1.5 line spacing. The images are scaled and are inconsistent. It looks like even many of the vector drawings are rendered as raster and then scaled, making them look blocky. there are bulleted lists that look incomplete (for some reason numbered lists are better). And overall the language might have benefited from a few iterations of good copy editing.
I could recommend the book for the content, but you should prefer a potential future edition for higher quality.