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How to Create User-Friendly Online Forms

Online surveys and forms are becoming commonplace, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have been well designed and user-friendly.

I often experience feedback form fatigue. After attending an event, I dread filling in the survey form to tell the presenter or organizer they did a good job. From my event organization experience, you quickly learn that most people like to complain about the catering, the air-conditioning and issues that are out of your control. I’ve gotten to the point where I refuse to waste my valuable time filling in pointless online forms.

However, if you are required to create an online form here are some helpful tips on improving the user experience.

Online Forms: Best Practices

  • Use the minimum number of fields to avoid the user abandoning the form
  • Top left-field names are the easiest to read (this may be the default setting)
  • Try to avoid multiple fields on the same line
  • Avoid asking super sensitive questions about income, politics and religion
  • Avoid asking unnecessary questions that do not add value to your results, like title, gender, full address details (the city is probably enough) etc.
  • Use a descriptive call to action
  • Avoid captchas
form design example

Make sure that the answers following a logical sequence and use headings to group similar questions into sections. Users prefer a button with a description call to action over just a generic ‘Submit’ button.

I like to test new online forms with a couple of different people to ensure that they understand the questions and provide useful answers. When testing an online form, it’s good to just watch and observe your user quietly without making any remarks or suggestions. You may like to encourage them to verbalize what they are thinking and feeling during the process.

After you have completed the testing phase, you’ll need to check that the answers you are receiving in the backend are useful. At this point, you may like to change the wording of any of your questions. You may consider changing the form type or adding some explainer text to add useful context.

In the last couple of years, data privacy legislation requires that you take data seriously. Think the European Union’s GDPR and California’s CCPA. As part of your website policies, you’ll need to develop a privacy policy. This will specify how you will use data and how long it is stored for.

You may like to use Google Forms or Survey Monkey to create your online forms. For personal use and a small number of users, these are free. Survey Monkey provides a number of free survey templates that might help you with using the right language and provide a solid starting place.

The survey results can then be exported to MS Excel or Google Sheets to analyse the results and create graphs and charts. You may like to spend some time data cleansing before creating your graphs and moving the responses to MS Word, PowerPoint, an email or a webpage.

.CSV Definition: A comma-separated values file is a delimited text file that uses a comma to separate values. Each line of the file is a data record. Each record consists of one or more fields, separated by commas.

A well-designed online form has a place to play in your market research and customer feedback with thorough user testing. Consider adding a gift card or small prize as an incentive to encourage users to fill it in.

Please leave a comment to tell us about your experiences with creating online forms:

Photo Credit: by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

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Written by Emma Crameri

I am a Brisbane-based freelance technical reviewer and writer. I have experience working in ICT, online education and digital marketing. I can turn your ideas into engaging and shareable online content. I'm an early adopter with both Android and Apple devices. I'm also the Editor of the Brisbanista website.

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