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Articles are listed from newest at the top to the oldest at the bottom.

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Character separators in paper forms

16 Sep 2014

Except for in some very special circumstances, the research shows you shouldn't separate paper form text fields into individual characters.

The double life of forms

28 Jan 2014

When is a form not just a form? When it's also a document!

Sure, it's a disappointing joke, but it's also a serious opportunity for better design.

Sex and gender

25 Jul 2013

Some questions appear simple but are actually surprisingly complex. We've looked at ‘Name’ before, now we turn to ‘Sex’, also sometimes interchangeably — but incorrectly — known as ‘Gender’.

In this post we'll peel back the layers and look at just which piece of information you need, and how to ask for it.

Online retail missing out on millions

19 Jun 2013

By not prioritising good form design, online retailers are leaving millions on the table.

Double entry of form fields

17 Jan 2013

Sometimes we ask form-fillers to provide the exact same information — e.g. email or password — twice. Why do we do this, is it a good or a bad idea, and what are the alternatives?

Fixing forms is easy…no?

12 Jul 2011

Learning best practices is a crucial part of being able to design good forms, but it's not all you need. As this article will describe, sometimes the biggest challenges are less tangible and require "softer" skills.

Well-designed error messages

11 Jan 2011

In this article, after summarising the principles of well-designed error messages, we walk through a good example from a live website.

Perception and the design of forms – Part 6: Similarity

28 Sep 2010

We're finishing our series on visual perception and the design of forms with one of the simpler Gestalt principles: similarity.

Perception and the design of forms – Part 5: Proximity

02 Sep 2010

The law of proximity is one of the most straightforward of the visual perception principles to apply, yet poor implementation leads to a great number of hard-to-use forms.

Perception and the design of forms – Part 4: Figure/ground

12 Aug 2010

People have a remarkable ability to find the text boxes on a form and fill them in. In this article we'll explain why, and exactly what is needed for this to work.

Perception and the design of forms – Part 3: Colour

13 Jul 2010

In this article we come to one of the meatiest aspects of visual design that influences the perception of forms: colour.

Perception and the design of forms – Part 2: Size

29 Jun 2010

This is the second in our 6-part series on human visual perception and its influence on the design of forms. Nicely related to our previous concept of shape is this article's topic: size.

Perception and the design of forms – Part 1: Shape

01 Jun 2010

This is the first in a 6-part series on human visual perception and its influence on the design of forms. After introducing the series, we look at our first key visual element: shape.

Do I have to answer this question? Mandatory versus optional fields

20 Oct 2009

In this article we’re going to look at every aspect of mandatory versus optional fields, including: what the two different types of fields are; how they should be indicated; and indeed whether there is a need to distinguish between the two field types at all.

Eyetracking research and forms design

10 Jun 2009

Formulate takes a closer look at some recent eyetracking research for forms design.

The cost of bad forms

20 May 2009

Are you skeptical about whether poor form design really matters? If so, you're not alone. The impact is, however, considerable, as we show in this article.

Recalled behaviour is not fact

24 Mar 2009

When discussing survey forms, questions about behaviour are often called "factual questions" to distinguish them from questions about opinion or perceptions. The use of the term "factual" is a misnomer, however, and in this article we'll look at why.


20 Nov 2008

How should elements be aligned on a form? This article provides some solid, evidence-based recommendations for an often hotly-debated topic.

Collecting personal information

27 Aug 2008

24-30 August 2008 is Privacy Awareness Week, so we thought we'd take a look the issue of privacy and the collection of personal information on forms.

Closed question response categories

05 Aug 2008

Most forms contain at least one question for which respondents must choose one or more options from a predefined set. These predefined options are the closed question response categories.

In this article, we're going to unpick what makes a good (or not so good) set of response categories, culminating with a simple-to-use checklist.

Judging forms

15 Jul 2008

Judging a form is about making an assessment of quality, usefulness and/or suitability.

Many people judge forms just by looking at them. This article demonstrates why this method of judging is lacking and suggests alternative approaches.

A beginner's guide to forms security

11 Jun 2008

Here in Australia, 6 - 13 June 2008 is National E-Security Awareness Week. It seems like an apt time, therefore, for us to provide an overview of some key security issues for electronic forms, particularly those on the Web.

What is an electronic form?

01 May 2008

We all know what a paper form is, partly because they've been around for an awfully long time. Electronic forms, on the other hand, are relatively new. Consequently, there is still plenty of confusion about what exactly an electronic form is.

Is electronic form synonymous with entering data using a computer? Does it include forms that are filled out on the Web? What if the form is just a snapshot of an existing paper form?

In this article, we explore the spectrum of different electronic form types and present a useful framework for describing just what is an electronic form.


17 Mar 2008

When people hear the term “form design”, they usually think about graphics and layout or questions and answers. What they don't often think about is the process around the form.

The process, however, is pivotal as it influences the design of every part of the form.

This article explores the analysis of process, including the importance of documenting the information need.

The 4 layers of a form

22 Feb 2008

Need to design a form and can't get past that blank piece of paper or screen? Maybe you've been charged with reviewing an existing form and you don't know where to start.

This article describes a way in which a form or questionnaire can be broken up into individual layers, making the design and review process easier and more efficient.

What makes a good form?

16 Jan 2008

So you have a form, and you want to make it 'good'. Where do you start?

In this article we present a simple model for assessing the quality of a form.

Design of a healthcare form

08 Nov 2007

Today, 8 November 2007, is World Usability Day.

This year's theme is Healthcare, so we're having a look at the usability of new patient questionnaires.

You might be surprised to learn how many problems we encountered in such a relatively simple and common form.

The name riddle

04 Sep 2007

Practically every form asks the form-filler to provide their name. What seems like a relatively straightforward question actually turns out to be quite complicated. Learn what the complications are and how to deal with them in this, our latest article.

Reporting importance

04 Aug 2007

In this article we explore the ways to report importance data from direct measures, and also consider an alternative way to indirectly measure importance.

Untangling importance

22 Jul 2007

There's often a need to measure importance. For example, a government body may want to measure what services are most important to the public. Knowing the relative importance of different options helps with prioritising resource expenditure.

However, measuring importance accurately is, a little more difficult than it might sound. In this article we explore the best ways to make such measurements.