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Book Review – Web Form Design : Filling in the Blanks

Careful! This post is looking a little old and could be inaccurate in many, many ways

Web Form Design : Filling in the Blanks

Over the past couple of years as a full time web designer I feel I’ve constantly improved my knowledge and skills, but there’s always been one area I look at and feel disappointed, and that is forms. I’ve come to hate web forms as I find them a bit messy and difficult to design especially when you introduce a variety of form elements. However this should all be changing.

Thanks to the Etre e-newsletter I was informed of a new book; Web Form Design : Filling in the Blanks written by Luke Wroblewski. Although I’ve never heard of Luke before he was Lead User Interface Designer at eBay and is currently Senior Principal of Product Ideation & Design at Yahoo, so certainly has the credentials to be writing about the subject. Initially I was wary of buying the book as it was only available through the Rosenfeld (a New York publisher) website. This meant exchange rate and shipping costs, however I needed help and it was coming from anywhere else.

On purchasing the book you have the option of buying just the electronic copy or both the electronic and paperback. I chose both as I find reading offline much easier. Initially I though the electronic copy would be of no use to me, however I feel it will serve as a useful reference to use at work.

After waiting a few weeks for the book to arrive and a few more to actually read the 200 pages (I’m a slow reader) I’ve fallen in love with the book. Finally something has come along that has not only shown me how best to go about designing web forms but also the space around them, the interactions and the reasoning behind the choices involved. Although some of the reasoning is taken from Luke’s own experiences sections of the book are backed up by real usability testing performed by Etre based in London.

The great plus of this book is that Luke manages to keep you interested, even when presenting information you may already know he manages to enhance your existing knowledge as well as educate you in areas you have no previous experience. Rather than fill the book full of code examples of how to build a semantic form Luke instead focuses on the user. He writes about how the design, interaction and process of using a form affects the user and how we might best improve forms to enhance the user experience and makes a form a less daunting experience for everyone.

Personally I could not recommend this book enough, although I have yet to put any of the ideas I’ve learnt to practical use I will soon be redesigning and rebuilding an ecommerce site. In the book it talks a little about how effective even the smallest changes to a web form can be to the completion figures of that form, so with that in mind I fully expect to be able to provide our client with an updated site that will much improve the user experience and also their profits.

Also I love the simple but stylish design they use on the front cover of the book.

For more information about the book check out the associated Flickr account, RSS Feed and Rosenfeld product page.