Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dynamic Help in Web Forms

Helping users complete forms ...

"Many Web application designers strive to reduce the amount of instructional text that appears in the user interfaces they create. A likely part of their motivation is the perception that, if explaining how to use something requires too much instruction, it probably isn’t that easy to use and, therefore, has room for improvement in its design. Another motivating factor might be the tendency for people not to read any on-screen instructions, just like they tend not to read product manuals.

This type of thinking also applies to Web forms. When possible, designers strive to utilize a minimal amount of text to explain how users should fill in the different input fields in a form. In cases where forms absolutely require additional explanations or examples, a bit of clear text adjacent to an input field tends to do the trick, as shown in Figure 1.

Concise Help text adjacent to input fields is most useful when

• asking for unfamiliar data—What’s a PAC code?
• people might question why you are asking for specific data—Why do you need to know my date of birth?
• there are recommended ways of providing data—Separate your tags with commas.
• certain data fields are optional

However, there are many types of forms that require lots of obscure data, use unique formats, or have input restrictions. In such cases, the amount of Help text necessary for each input field could quickly overwhelm a form, making it appear quite intimidating or complex. For forms like this, it might make sense to consider using dynamic contextual Help. As various Help systems have emerged online, I’ve started to catalogue the different types I’ve come across."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

Clear, concise Help text adjacent to an input field on videoegg.com. - Usability, User Interface Design

Clear, concise Help text adjacent to an input field on videoegg.com.

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