Making the Form Flow Easily

"Flow" is the sense of the form as a task, from beginning to end, and it becomes of increasing importance as the length of a form increases beyond a few fields.

Some tips for dealing with longer forms:

There is a suggestion (common practice) to begin a form with simple and unobtrusive questions, then ask more difficult or invasive ones later, when the user feels "committed" to the form. Editorial note: this is old advice, pre-dating the internet, and I'm not sure if it holds true anymore (it could really tick people off if you "spring" these questions late).

On errors: the author suggests being gentle in the wording of error messages. It may be a simple mistake (the user made a typo), or it may be your fault (they didn't understand the question) - so be careful not to blame the user when an error occurs.

Validating data ensures that the data is complete and correct enough to process the form - which is also important to the user (they expect their data to be received and acted on).

After submitting the form, the user should see a "thank you" message that:

  1. Indicates the task has been completed successfully
  2. Indicates what will happen next (and when it will happen)
  3. Indicates anything that the user may (or must) do as a follow-up
  4. Provides an easy way to print out any information (such as an order reference number)
  5. Provides a link (or multiple links) to a place that the user may wish to go now that the task is done (such as the site's home page)