Web forms can often be seen as inconvenient, inefficient, and even intimidating to users. It can be difficult to find someone who enjoys filling out online forms, as they are often seen as a “necessary evil” that can either make or break key online experiences.
For the past three decades, web forms have been largely modelled after traditional paper forms, resulting in a user experience that is primarily system-focused instead of user-focused. This outdated approach has meant that users are required to repeatedly enter the same information into forms, leading to a cumbersome and inefficient process.
It is fortunate that meaningful changes are imminent. In five years’ time, we will likely look back with disbelief at the slow, inefficient, and frustrating process of entering personal data when submitting job applications, credit card applications, completing eCommerce checkouts, registering accounts, and conducting other activities which require data entry. Despite the importance of these interactions, the forms that enable them are often poorly designed.
In general, the user experience of online forms on both desktop and mobile devices is often found to be inadequate. There have been numerous publications, studies, essays, and whitepapers written by esteemed UX professionals, such as The Nielsen Norman Group, Baymard Institute (eCommerce) and Luke Wroblewski (co-founder of the Interaction Design Association), which have explored best practices for web form UX design.
That amounts to a huge loss of money, maybe in the trillions.
It may come as a surprise, but the Baymard Institute has ranked Amazon poorly in terms of “overall checkout UX performance”. This ranking is based on the user experience with various forms throughout the checkout process, such as shipping, in-store pickup, credit card information, validation errors and more. It is alarming to consider just how much money is being lost due to inadequate user experience design.
Most online forms nowadays are tedious, take too long to complete, and don’t prioritise user friendliness.
Online forms can be an extensive and tedious task, taking up valuable time and effort. They are often prone to errors, and lack features such as auto-completion, auto-formatting and default values which could aid the user experience. Furthermore, input errors are not always managed effectively. Mobile forms present an additional set of design challenges and usability issues.
It is becoming increasingly common for businesses to request information from customers that is not related to the transaction in any way. Donation forms are particularly notorious for this, with the sole purpose of collecting donor profiles for internal statistics and disregarding the donor’s preferences. It is almost as if one were about to hand over cash to a merchant, only to be confronted with an interrogation in order to gather data for their own purposes. This is not an acceptable practice, and it is something that should not be tolerated.
The user experience of creating accounts, adding items to shopping carts, and filling out other forms on mobile devices can be challenging due to their small display size and lack of a traditional keyboard. In order to interact with UI components, users must use their fingers to tap and swipe on the screen. Even on smartphones which have small keyboards specifically designed for them, the process of typing is slow and often leads to mistakes.
Due to the limited real estate afforded by mobile devices, users must depend on their working memory to construct an internal model of the system.
Changing Web Forms
We are currently in the midst of a period of transformation in regards to web forms. We have moved away from the cumbersome, laborious, and repetitive process of manually entering data into forms, to a much more convenient and secure future. Technologies such as Touch ID, voice-printing, computer vision, facial recognition, and iris scans are now being used to securely access and provide personal data to systems that require it.
Despite the hard work that UX designers have put in to improve the user experience and reduce the stress associated with completing online forms, the results of their efforts have been limited and have not provided the comprehensive solution that is needed. Thus far, the improvements they have made have been minor and have not had a significant effect on the overall user experience.
The introduction of new form designs that prioritise a user-friendly, seamless experience have had a profoundly positive impact on our everyday lives. These designs have departed from the traditional form models in order to make the user experience as smooth as possible. Even with these advances, however, there is still room for improvement in many areas.
Automatic Form Filling Saves the Day
Google‘s Chrome Autofill feature has been met with enthusiasm due to its capability to facilitate quick form filling. This feature allows users to store their sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, in a secure environment, thereby saving them time when completing online forms. According to a research conducted by Google, it was found that 25% fewer form submissions occurred when users opted to disable Autofill in Chrome. This finding demonstrates that the process of filling out forms can be extremely tedious and discouraging when users are not able to benefit from Autofill’s convenience.
Surprise! People would rather not have to spend time inputting repetitive information into forms.
To Ease the Struggle, There Are Password Managers
It can be inconvenient to recall and re-enter passwords for numerous internet accounts; this is why password managers have become a well-received remedy to the issue. Two notably popular password manager solutions are 1Password and Dashlane, which offer the convenience of securely storing passwords and allowing for quick access with minimal effort.
Registration Is Now Obsolete Due to Social Sign-Ins
A recent survey conducted by WebHostingBuzz found that an overwhelming majority (86%) of users found account creation to be a hassle. To alleviate this issue, many websites now offer the option to use a social sign-in, which allows users to log in to multiple sites with a single username and password. This can be done by importing the user’s details from a social networking website such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter. By removing the need for passwords, entrance barriers are lowered and registration rates are significantly increased.
Thanks to mobile technology, filling out forms is much less of a chore
Recent advancements in usability for mobile forms have provided a wealth of inspiration for improved best practices related to desktop computers. These improvements include the capability to save and quickly recall frequently used information, the utilisation of phone functions such as the camera, GPS, voice, and contact list, and the automatic formatting of input based on a ZIP code pre-selection of the US State. All of these enhancements can provide a more efficient and user-friendly experience for desktop users.
It is possible to tailor the keyboard to the task at hand, through features such as auto-formatting for phone numbers and credit card numbers and providing suggestions based on the initial characters entered. This allows for a more efficient and convenient input experience.
Forms on the Web: Recent Developments
It has been noted that the classic design of web forms is modelled after the traditional paper-based format. In the past, there were no technological methods available to collect such information, but with the emergence of modern tools, this is no longer the case. Nowadays, conventional online forms are being replaced by streamlined user interfaces with distinct input fields. When structured in this way, form filling no longer appears to be a tedious data entry task, but rather a natural and effortless process.
As organisations embrace emerging technologies, there is a shift towards adopting more conversational methods of data collection from users. This involves integrating user input fields within a natural and conversational style of questioning, and can be seen as a precursor to the more sophisticated chatbot and other input technologies that are expected to become commonplace in the future.
Chatbots and the Future of Interactive Computing
Chatbots are Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems that utilise an Instant Messaging (IM) platform as their primary user interface. In some cases, chatbots are not AI-based, but are actual people interacting through chat to provide an exceptional customer experience. This is beneficial, as it creates a more natural and conversational atmosphere between the customer and the company than would be possible if customers were required to fill out forms.
Although the total time taken to complete a task, such as making a basic trip reservation, may remain constant, the user’s experience is likely to be improved due to the use of a conversational interface and the division of the task into smaller, more manageable components.
Hyatt Hotels is now offering guests the convenience of booking accommodations or inquiring about general information such as availability during holidays through the Facebook Messenger app. This innovative technology allows for a real-time connection between guests and Hyatt staff, providing an efficient and effortless experience.
The emergence of intelligent software bots has the potential to revolutionise the insurance industry. Since Facebook made Messenger accessible to all developers, this has allowed for the development of automated insurance agents.
Jack Insurance in the United Kingdom provides accessible business insurance for self-employed creatives and digital professionals, such as web designers, developers, and illustrators, to meet their specific needs. This insurance has been specifically designed to accommodate the requirements of these professionals, allowing them to work with peace of mind.
Despite the potential benefits of using chatbots and other automated solutions to improve the user experience when filling out forms, this is not a comprehensive solution. The requirement of repeatedly entering detailed personal information is ultimately doomed to fail.
As a general rule, we can’t find solutions to issues by using the same lines of reasoning that led to their creation. “- Albert Einstein
We need to make a quantum leap into the new paradigm to transition from the “vitamin” stage to a real painkiller.
AI’s Ascendance Brings Tomorrow’s User-Friendly Data Collection Today
In recent months, many of us have experienced the arduous task of planning a summer vacation. From my own experience, I had to complete an excessive amount of paperwork for three airlines, twelve hotels, two car rental agencies, and airport shuttles, which all required me to provide redundant information such as my name, address, phone number, email address, and credit card or frequent flyer numbers. This process is not only time-consuming, but it also fails to provide a meaningful or beneficial outcome.
According to Google, 69% of leisure travellers have reservations about the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their vacation bookings. The need to manually enter the same information into multiple forms is a major source of stress, with the associated time-consuming effort only adding to the frustration. Unfortunately, the autofill feature of Chrome and other similar aids do not mitigate the difficulty or cumbersome nature of the booking process.
Long-term, the goal of UX design is not to improve online forms in any way, but rather to eliminate them entirely.
It has been suggested that the wide range of mobile technologies, including GPS, Touch ID, voice and facial recognition, iris scans, computer vision, AI assistants and chatbots, will cause a significant shift in the way personal data is collected for successful online transactions. As a consequence, desktop sites may need to integrate with mobile devices to access their superior technological features for identification verification.
It is an exciting prospect to consider a future in which everyone has access to a personal data vault that securely stores sensitive information, such as their name, home address, work address, phone numbers, date of birth, and frequent flyer miles. To ensure this data is kept safe and only accessible to the rightful owner, a combination of biometric authentication, security questions, and a master password would be used to access the vault. Furthermore, once the site or app is given permission to access the vault, it would be able to utilise the data without the user having to manually input any of it.
The strategies and backups for unlocking vaults may vary depending on the system or device. To simplify the process for users, a chatbot or other conversational user interface (UI) can be implemented to ask basic questions. Furthermore, voice recognition and natural language processing can be integrated as additional features, allowing users to forgo the need to manually enter information. Lastly, if speech recognition is not an option, users can still type in their answers via a text-based system.
With the owner’s explicit permission, this vault could be temporarily opened to provide access to data from a different vault, such as that of a partner or spouse. This access would be limited and restricted to only the requested information. Consequently, a travel app or website could easily access the required data and facilitate the user’s trip planning process with minimal effort.
It is possible that in the future, web forms will become obsolete and no longer be useful in providing practical solutions. In this case, UX designers will need to come up with alternative user experiences to replace the use of forms. By doing so, traditional methods of inputting data into online forms will become a thing of the past.
User Input Is Evolving Into Something New
The rapid expansion of online resources and the ever-increasing number of mobile devices that are connected to the internet has created a constant flow of information. Technologies such as computer vision, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, which were once deemed as part of the future, are now at our fingertips and are drastically changing the user experience.
As technology advances, traditional user interfaces (UIs) are becoming less and less common. Online forms are a key component of this transition, as they allow users to provide input without actively engaging with the interface. This is known as an “invisible interface,” as users can provide their input without having to do anything. It is likely that in the future, the need for user input forms will still remain, however more and more people are beginning to utilise this invisible interface concept.
Data regarding an individual’s past and present employment, their travel plans, and any online purchases can be harnessed to gain valuable insights by leveraging advanced artificial intelligence technologies such as machine learning, as well as sophisticated algorithms which are capable of predicting a user’s information requirements in order to make the application, reservation, and buying processes faster and more efficient.
Despite our best efforts to promote a better user experience, the challenge of balancing the need to protect sensitive information with the desire to completely eliminate online forms remains. If we are to develop systems that are both reliable and secure, we must find ways to address these issues. Numerous studies have confirmed that people are willing to share their personal information and be tracked if it leads to meaningful rewards and allows them to save time.
As a UX designer, it is essential to stay ahead of the changing trends and be prepared for a future where chatbots and conversational user interfaces become the norm. Therefore, it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of the various use cases and optimise the user experience. Additionally, it is important to identify any potential inefficiencies or problems in the engagement process. Furthermore, the chatbot’s personality is an important factor to consider. Are we decreasing or increasing the time it takes to complete tasks? With biometric identification verifications becoming increasingly widespread, it is important to consider how people will communicate in the future. Finally, it is essential to find ways to improve the services offered to customers in order to provide remarkable and hassle-free experiences.
Despite the inevitable changes to the design industry due to technological advancements and the changing relationship between humans and computers, the fundamentals of User Experience (UX) will remain unchanged. Ultimately, the user-centred design approach will be triumphant.