Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles

Bulletproof Your Forms

📄 Contents

  1. Provide sample entries, pull-downs, and formatting hints to ensure clean data
  2. Explicitly state limits to characters, number of entries, and so forth
  3. About This Article
  • Print
  • + Share This
Forms are a hassle. "Invalid" responses, confusing choices, and unacceptable entries constantly gum up the works. It's no wonder busy surfers give up when faced with forms. In this article, Matthew Linderman of 37signals shows you two simple ways to improve your response rates.
Like this article? We recommend

Let's admit it: Things will go wrong online. No matter how carefully you design a site, no matter how much testing you do, customers will still encounter problems. Sites must plan for these inevitable breakdowns with defensive design.

Effective form contingency design is a great way to boost conversion rates. Customers don't want to guess, so be sure to provide examples of how to enter information. Too, let visitors know ahead of time what the acceptable entries are.

Provide sample entries, pull-downs, and formatting hints to ensure clean data

Few things frustrate a form-filler more than being told an entry needs to conform to certain standards after the form is submitted. Give visitors a break by being upfront about acceptable parameters. Use sample entries, pull-downs, and formatting hints to avoid a breakdown. These tools will minimize confusion and help people quickly complete forms. This guideline will show you how to use these techniques to ensure data is properly formatted:

  • Limit the range of entries.

  • Use HTML form elements to ensure valid submissions.

  • Give formatting examples.

  • Provide correct sample entries to prevent confusion.

  • Form guidance.

  • Use form layout to guide people in the right direction.

E*Trade: Which Dates Are Valid?

Figure 10Figure 4.10 http://www.etrade.com

I entered "7/2/03" as a date at E*Trade, but this message informs me that this is an "invalid date." Unfortunately, E*Trade never explained the proper way to enter the date prior to entry or why the date entered was invalid (impossible date, bad format, or so on) after entry.

Even worse, E*Trade's error message still doesn't tell me the right format to use. Should it be 7-2-03 or 07/02/03 or something else? E*Trade's unspecific response is an invitation to additional frustration. The site should clearly indicate the proper date format to use.

Limit the Range of Entries

Open-ended text fields leave plenty of room for error. When given free range, visitors often wind up submitting entries that are unacceptable for one reason or another.

How can you make sure visitors stay between the lines? Pull-downs, list boxes, and check box lists can limit the range of entries to only those who you deem acceptable. These tools provide a nifty way to nudge customers in the right direction.

United Airlines: Month Pull-Down

Figure 11Figure 4.11 http://www.united.com

There's no way to enter an invalid date at United's site because of the pull-down menus used for date selection. This simple technique prevents mistakes and keeps visitors on track. Pull-downs are also used to ensure acceptable responses for the number of travelers, service class, flights per leg, and other fields.

DeepDiscountCD.com: Improving the Odds

Figure 12Figure 4.12 http://www.deepdiscountcds.com

DeepDiscountCDs uses pull-downs to keep credit card type, date of expiration, salutation, state, and country data accurate. This improves the odds that I will successfully complete the form on the first try.

Give Formatting Examples

If you don't use HTML form elements to limit entries, make sure you explicitly tell visitors the correct format to use.

Expedia and E*Trade: MM/DD/YYYY and XXX-XX-XXXX

Figure 13Figure 4.13 http://www.expedia.com

Figure 14Figure 4.14 http://www.etrade.com

What date format should I use at Expedia? The hint "MM/DD/YY" makes it obvious. Should I use hyphens for my Social Security number at E*Trade? Yes, according to their format hint. Without this information, I would be forced to guess the acceptable formats.

Yahoo! and Citysearch: Sample Answers

Figure 15Figure 4.15 weather.yahoo.com

Figure 16Figure 4.16 http://www.citysearch.com

Yahoo! Weather and Citysearch both provide examples of proper search submissions. This lets me know what a "good" entry looks like and increases the odds of a successful search.

Form Guidance

Alternatively, you can also use the structure of your form to make sure people don't make mistakes.

Dell: Boxed In

Figure 17Figure 4.17 http://www.dell.com

What's the right way to enter a phone number at Dell? The site uses separate text boxes to eliminate any doubt. This greatly reduces the possibility of making a mistake.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.peachpit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020