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Boring looooong forms in iOS: How to deal with them?

over 5 years ago from , Designer at Ilustre Design

Every time I have to design an app that depends heavily on long forms being filled (like stock control apps, contact management apps, etc.) I feel that I fail in delivering a good user experience. I don't know if it's just me or if that's a general frustration among designers.

I've been working on yet another app that requires a lot of forms to be filled by their users and this time I really don't want to fail.

How do you guys deal with that? Any tips?

19 comments

  • Jonathan YapJonathan Yap, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    Long forms are tricky because you get lots of fields that might not be required. Always check if it aligns with user and business goal. Now ask yourself,

    • can some of these forms be automated or pre-populated?
    • do you need to show them all at once? It might be better to break them down to small digestible chucks and only show when someone toggles them.
    • can you manage their expectations? Steps, progress bars are some that can be employed to mitigate the experience
    • having steps are good too, always auto-save the progress and allow users to revisit if it's a painfully long process (like immigration forms)
    • do you have to force them to fill up everything at once up front? Progressively ask for information can be a less painful experience.

    Hope that helps you push a little closer to less painful long form experience :)

    7 points
    • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, over 5 years ago

      This covers pretty much everything that came to my mind too.

      I think chunking it up is going to be the most important part. That way saving bits and pieces on-the-go will be easier too. Sort of like filling out a profile through a step-by-step wizard.

      1 point
    • Bruno Barros, over 5 years ago

      Thanks for the tips! I feel that pre-populating them as much as possible is the way to go.

      Dividing them in multiple steps might work sometimes, but in most cases I feel that making the user pay attention to a progress bar end up increasing anxiety. Dunno. That just a feeling a have — laying out everything in one screen seems less punishing than constantly showing the user that there are X steps left to go.

      0 points
      • Jonathan YapJonathan Yap, over 5 years ago

        Yeah, but best way to find out is test it with your users :D

        We found out that steps worked for some cases, but in another situation, users are more receptive to smart long form that appears when its relevant.

        0 points
    • Andrew ZimmermanAndrew Zimmerman, over 5 years ago

      Use good default values and include any disqualifying questions/conditions early in the form.

      1 point
  • Marcus ZanonaMarcus Zanona, over 5 years ago

    I think TypeForm handled this in a graceful way. Even by not using their service I decided to take it as reference for one of the projects I am working. It makes everything look less busy and users only worry about one question at time.

    3 points
  • John Kegel, over 5 years ago

    In the same boat. I think forms in general are made to make people think. The visual pleasure behind the form, ex. animations, iconography, space, & color are the secret weapon to making it a tad bit more of a good user experience.

    I am currently on a app that asks over 100+ questions in a series of forms. I feel your pain. :/

    2 points
  • Brennan Smith, over 5 years ago

    I am working on an e-commerce site that needs to have a streamlined checkout process. After doing some research we are testing this pattern which will save quite a bit of real estate with all of the fields involved.

    Float Label Pattern

    JVFloatLabeledTextField

    Hope this helps.

    1 point
    • Bruno Barros, over 5 years ago

      Floating labels are pretty cool and I've used them before... but I honestly believe that in case of long forms they do more damage than good because they still don't provide room for label and placeholder (since they share the same space).

      That can get pretty bad in long forms where users need to double check if everything is correctly filled.

      1 point
  • Giovanni HobbinsGiovanni Hobbins, over 5 years ago

    Check out how AirBnB does their hosting form. It's a huge form but's done in a really intelligent, digestible way. It's essentially a checklist of many smaller forms (a dynamic many other commenters suggested).

    1 point
  • Jason KirtleyJason Kirtley, over 5 years ago

    I've have found that if you can break them down into a more "conversational" type flow it can help take the burden and pain out of them from the users perspective, and make them more unique from the point of view of designing them. So setup more in a way were it is not just chunk after chunk of boring input areas. But I do feel as mentioned by others it helps break them down into digestible screens to move through.

    1 point
  • channa k'thilakechanna k'thilake, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    Few ideas;

    • Try breaking down the form into multiple smaller forms. Never display a large number of fields in the same screen. Show multiple, very small forms so the user doesn't feel overwhelmed.

    • User appropriate titles to each small form and show 'bread crumbs' (or tabs, etc. to visualize the navigation) so the user can go back and edit anytime.

    • Show a progress bar (or something like '3/10 done') so the user understands how far to go.

    We had to deal with really long forms once in a banking/financial application. We had really good feedback from users after breaking down forms into smaller sections.

    1 point
    • Bruno BarrosBruno Barros, over 5 years ago

      Thanks for the tips! What I don't like about breaking the form into multiple smaller ones is that this might increase user anxiety. I mean, it's not cool being reminded all the time that this is step 2 of 14.

      0 points
  • Mark JenkinsMark Jenkins, over 5 years ago

    I hear your pain.

    I think the other thing to think about and test with people is that as Jonathan said below, can you break them down to smaller chunks.

    I've had experience where we broke a form (all on one view) into multiple steps made for a much better conversion rate. The important thing to remember is that every time you are asking for some information, make that the task at hand, get rid of anything not needed and make sure the person filling in the form knows what they need to do and what will happen when they go to the next part.

    On top of that, make sure the labels are obvious and truthful, depending on how you validate of course.

    1 point
    • Stephen Tomlinson, over 5 years ago

      Mark is right to touch on the conversion rate. Every form has a conversion/completion rate, even an admin form, and it's a really useful metric in terms of arguing a business case for reducing the complexity of them.

      A lot of times it's just assumed that presented with a form outside of a sales scenario, people just fill it in - and this is not at all the case.

      2 points
  • Richardini Zapata, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    If my form is not to long, what I do is show the user the whole form in just one screen (in that way people know what to expect from the beginning and don't get frustrated with different 'steps'). For really long forms I prefer to split them.

    Try to give all the possible clues in each input and validate everything in real time, it's frustrating to see errors after you send the form.

    I love what the guys of Intuit do with their taxes forms.

    1 point
  • Todd SielingTodd Sieling, over 5 years ago

    One of the most important steps in dealing with long forms happens outside of design or coding by looking for pieces of information that aren't obviously critical to what the form needs to do, and questioning their inclusion.

    Asking a client or team member to explain why something is absolutely necessary is a great exercise: it prompts reflection of what may have been traditionally or reflexively asked for, starts a conversation about what's really needed, and starts to build that habit of questioning in others.

    By questioning I don't mean doubting, just understanding and separating what's really needed from what is nice to have. Once you have that separation, you can go into design known what is essential and what might be better deferred to a different flow/later time for people using the form, or dropped entirely.

    All data gathered is a liability as much as an asset. Helping people see the benefits of getting a form as lean as possible is not just good design, it's good customer experience all around and good business.

    0 points