3 Tips for Better Forms UX

When you enter information into a form, it is easy to make mistakes. How do you help your users make less mistakes? You provide them with defaults. Defaults can help users to fill out a form quicker, make decisions easier and reduce errors.

3 Tips For Better Forms UX
Photo by: BiljaST

When you build a form, you need to get different types of information. Some information like their name, address and email address need to be entered by the user. Other information like state, country, gender or some other information that requires a decision can use a default. A default is the most likely option that a user would choose.

For example, your user is going to buy a product. The default quantity is one. You set the quantity for them, so they don’t have to. It helps them to make the purchase quickly. You don’t want them to think to hard on how many they want.

Should you use a drop down list or something else?

It depends. If you have a short number of options, you can use a radio button list. The list makes it easy to scan your options and choose quickly.

For a longer list of options like State or Country, a radio button list would be too hard to read. It is better to put the options in a drop down list. Most mobile devices can handle the use of a drop down list on a form. If you aren’t certain which one works better for your form, you can ask these 9 questions to help you decide.

Address Form with Defaults

Should you choose an option in a drop down list?

When you can, fill drop down lists like state and country with user data. For drop down lists that require a decision by the user, you can leave the field blank. By leaving them blank, people scan for the empty or blank fields and fill them in. They rarely change fields with defaults in them.

Should you use placeholders in fields?

If you are designing a short form with a couple of fields like a login or sign up form, then the answer is yes. You can use placeholders instead of labels on these forms.

Curves Join Form

When you create longer forms like an event registration form, don’t use placeholders. Use clear label, error messages and defaults to help guide the user through the form.

When you build a form, you can use these techniques to help guide them through filling out a form. Defaults, radio button lists or other input fields, pre-selected drop down lists and placeholders in fields when necessary. By making decisions for users and guiding them through the data entry process of your form, you can help make filling out forms faster and easier.

Getting Started with a Design System

When your website is small, you can use design tools like sketches, sitemap and color schemes to create a consistent and cohesive look and feel. What happens as your team and website grows? How do you keep your website design and functionality from being a mess? You may start out by creating a design style guide or building a pattern library. Eventually, you’ll need something more. A tool like a design system.

Getting Started with a Design System
Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

What is a design system?

A Design System is a documented library of colors, fonts, buttons, components, visual elements and other design features that helps to create a consistent user experience. It is more than a style guide or a pattern library. A style guide focuses on the design or look and feel. Pattern libraries focus on building and providing a consistent code base. Your design system pulls both the style guide and pattern library into a single, documented system for your entire team to use.

Examples of Design Systems

How do I build my own design system?

Start with the tools that you know. You can build your own using a CMS that you are familiar with. To get started, you can look at Brad Frost’s Design System Boilerplate. You can use the boilerplate as a starting guide for building your own system. Next, review and document your visual elements, design features and other components that make your user experience unique.

When you build your own, start small and build as you go. Remember, the best solution is the one that you and your team uses. Refer to these tools and resources to learn more about how to build a design system:

Build a Website With CSS Grid Starter Template

The best way to learn a new coding technique or design framework is to build something with it. I chose to build a website with CSS Grid. I wanted to take a book and make it a website. On Grid By Example, you can find a CSS Grid starter template that makes it simple to begin. The template has a simple two column layout: left-hand sidebar and right hand column for content. Plus, it uses an existing CSS Framework called Skeleton. I have used Skeleton to create WordPress themes.

Build website with CSS Grid Starter Template

What steps were needed to build the website?

  1. Choose and download a public domain book from Project Gutenberg
  2. Download the CSS Grid Starter Template
  3. Step up the new website with the CSS Grid Starter Template
  4. Modify the sample page with content from the ebook
  5. Create new CSS classes and modify existing ones to create the look I wanted
  6. Test and modify the CSS for mobile

Choose a public domain book for this project

You can download a public domain book from Project Gutenberg. I picked I chose Black Amazon of Mars by Leigh Brackett because I wanted to build a science fiction themed site.

Getting Started with the CSS Grid Starter Template

When you first install the template, your website looks like this:
Grid By Example Two Column Template with Skeleton

My next steps were to replace the template’s content with my own and start to add new CSS to start building a simple design. Then, I downloaded images from Pixabay.com for the website. I wanted a photo of Mars for the header and a better photo for one of the chapters. It had an illustration that didn’t go with the story. The final result looks like this.
CSS Grid Template with Black Amazon of Mars

Does it work on mobile?

CSS Grid is mobile-first. I had to make changes to the CSS for the additions that I added to the website. The CSS Grid part worked beautifully on mobile.

Summary

CSS Grid Starter template helped me to get started quickly. The template did most of the work. I didn’t have to figure out the layout from scratch. I spent most of my time creating the pages, adding the content and adding design elements to make the site look better. The starter template made my first attempt in building with CSS Grid simple and easy.

Design Patterns in CTAs

What design patterns do you need to create an effective call to action? When you create a web design, you consider things like copy, color, fonts and images. The same things apply when designing your call to action.

Design Patterns in CTAs

Start with Copy

What should your call-to-action say? Use a minimal amount of copy. You want your visitors to scan your copy and quickly take action. Most calls-to-action have 1-2 sentences or a short bulleted list that convinces you to take action.

Nerd Fitness CTA

On NerdFitness.com, you can download a copy of their free weight-loss guide. Their copy uses a large heading that tells you want you are getting and 3 bullet points that explain what the guide entails. They use the copy to convince to give them your email address in exchange for their free weight loss guide.

Choose the right words for your Call-to-Action Button

You want to use words that get people to click. Start your button copy with a verb. Verbs like get, start or join. Avoid single word buttons. Instead use 2 or more words. You can add words like free or my to help people decide to click.

In the NerdFitness call-to-action, their button starts with a verb. They use “Get It Now” to convince you to download their guide.

Choose the right color for your button

Colors can affect whether or not people will click on your button. Your button need to stand out from the rest of the content. Be picky with the colors. Start with orange and test to see what colors work best.

Nerd Fitness used red. They use red on their website. It helps to make the button stand out and look like it belongs as part of the website too.

What size should your font be?

It depends. You may want to mix large fonts with small to make the copy stand out. Use a large font on your button to make it easy to read and entice your visitors to click on it. In the Nerd Fitness example, they use both large and small fonts. The size choices work to grab your attention.

How do you make it stand out?

Use photos, icons or background colors to make your CTA different enough from the rest of your content. Nerd Fitness used a yellow background, a black border and an image to make it different from the content of the page and compliment the rest of the design.

Summary

By combining copy, colors, fonts, buttons and decorative elements, you can create a CTA that entices your visitors to take the action that you want them to take. Not all CTAs work well. You may need to test and make changes to get the right design. Use these tips to incorporate current design trends when creating your next call to action.

Switching to Font Awesome 5

Do you use Font Awesome? I have used Font Awesome on my development projects. When you depend on a library, framework or font, you eventually need to upgrade to the latest version. Upgrades don’t always go smoothly. Font Awesome recently released their 5.0 version.

Switching to Font Awesome

How do you switch to the new version?

Before beginning, I looked at their getting started page. By looking at their documentation, I saw that they have different options for using Font Awesome 5.0. I chose the option that worked best for my project.

Updating my project with 5.0

Originally, my Bootstrap template used it as a web font. For the update, I chose to use the same method. They recommend to use their free CDN.

Font Awesome CDN Screenshot

I picked out a Bootstrap template that used an older version of Font Awesome to upgrade. The template had icons for web applications and a few brand icons into. The update show the web application icons and not the brand icons. Font Awesome changed their naming convention for the icons.

Screenshot with missing icons

Without the new names, the icons don’t show. I got a little box with text in it. Once I changed to the new naming convention, fab, my social media brand icons displayed.

Screenshot with icons

After fixing the social media icons, I switched the other icons to match their new naming convention.

With 5.0, Font Awesome has a free and pro version. I’m using the free version. In this version, the icons are a bit different from the previous version. I didn’t like one of the icons and found out that I didn’t have a choice. If I wanted a better one, I had to upgrade to the pro version. The quicker option was to pick a different icon for this project. I picked a different one. It works fine for this project.

Summary

Switching to 5.0 was easy. Not all upgrades you smoothly. Sometimes you spend hours trying to figure out what went wrong. Not this time. A few quick switches and my template look good.