I believe it’s general knowledge that nobody likes filling in web forms. Neither you, nor me. The longer and more complicated the form, the more repellent it is to users. Understandable. Here, I’d like to present a concept which is very interesting to me – adaptive web forms.
For example, I’m a regular blog reader and often comment on them. This means that every time I have to enter my name, e-mail and url before posting a comment. Browsers do help here, however, by remembering data I’ve previously entered, but I still have to fill these fields in. Some blogs don’t even offer this.
Remember my input
You may have noticed that once you comment on any of my blog posts, your data is saved and the next time you visit it has already been filled in. This is a way in which regular readers are enabled to quickly post comments. However, besides saving just data, the whole of user interface can be adapted to provide a different kind of interaction for returning readers.
Here is the case: the idea is to save the data that I’ve entered when I visited a blog for the first time (eg. using a cookie). It is also a good idea to inform visitors that the data is going to be saved for next time. In the example above, the message is next to the title “Add comment”. The data is automatically filled in the next time I visit. However, it can also be hidden. The image below is showing a case of returning to the above blog.
As the data is read from the cookie, it can be saved to a database together with the comment, and almost the whole form (4 fields) can be hidden and replaced with the message “Welcome again”. In this way, I would be not only focused on leaving the comment but it would affect the overall user experience. At least, I think so.
Of course, in case you want to change your data, you can do so at any time by using a link on the right hand side of the welcome message (this message could be more meaningful, but you get it). By clicking that link, the hidden fields would become visible and the welcome message would be hidden.
Adaptive user interfaces in general have one serious problem – learnability. Users must constantly adapt (remember Microsoft Office Adaptive menus, they were discarded). But I don’t see this will be a big problem here. However, there is another potential problem here, and that’s trust ie. privacy. Advanced users understand how this data is kept, but some users would definitely pose a question.
Both these problems have a solution in adding a “Remember my personal details” checkbox instead of a message that data is to be saved. This way, the control is back in the user’s hands, which should be a rule. A short survey, I conducted, confirmed this. Around 76% of users surveyed thought this option as the best one, 20% consider a message to be enough while 4% don’t think this feature is necessary at all. Ok, I know that survey is not the best tool, but it’s still better than nothing.
In the end, I think this is one way web forms could adapt to us instead of us adapting to them. Still, my enthusiasm to shorten the time spent in filling in web forms aside, this should definitely be tested. Do adaptive web forms make sense to you and do you know some other examples?