Extra form fields – Make sure they benefit the user

, . Filed under Web.

Something to look out for when your work CMS has a forms module.

It’s too easy to expose your organisation’s processes to the user and ask them to do your work.

An example:

You run a website for an organisation with 50 branches. You’ve set up a form which is sent to someone in the organisation to forward to the appropriate branch. A lot of customers use it, which saves the organisation time answering phone calls and emails.

Then you think you could make things more efficient by cutting out the middle man.

Luckily, your CMS’s form module includes a nifty little feature where it can send emails to different addresses based on the user’s choice from a dropdown list. In this case, you present a choice of 50 branches. The user selects a branch and the email gets routed appropriately.

Sounds good, apart from the fact you’ve shifted work to the user without providing anything in return.

Now, some might argue that adding a field to a form isn’t a big deal. But consider the additional work a dropdown list of 50 branches entails:

  • Another field to interpret and interact with.
  • Another compulsory field to complete.
  • Navigating to and pressing a small target area.
  • Scanning and interpreting a list of 50 branches.
  • Selecting one of the branches.

Filling in forms on and offline is a joyless experience that involves interpretation, repetition and a degree of dexterity. Think of all the times you’ve had to complete an endless job application form which asks you about every job you’ve ever had.

Unless your user can see they _have _to fill in a field in order to make something work, adding friction simply means they’re more likely to bail out. At the very least, you’re making their experience of your website more miserable.