List of forms and data entry usability guidelines
- Fields in data entry screens contain default values when appropriate and show the structure of the data and the field length.
- When a task involves source documents (such as a paper form), the interface is compatible with the characteristics of the source document.
- The site automatically enters field formatting data (e.g. currency symbols, commas for 1000s, trailing or leading spaces). Users do not need to enter characters like £ or %. .
- Field labels on forms clearly explain what entries are desired.
- Text boxes on forms are the right length for the expected answer.
- There is a clear distinction between "required" and "optional" fields on forms.
- The same form is used for both logging in and registering (i.e. it's like Amazon).
- Forms pre-warn the user if external information is needed for completion (e.g. a passport number).
- Questions on forms are grouped logically, and each group has a heading.
- Fields on forms contain hints, examples or model answers to demonstrate the expected input.
- When field labels on forms take the form of questions, the questions are stated in clear, simple language.
- Pull-down menus, radio buttons and check boxes are used in preference to text entry fields on forms (i.e. text entry fields are not overused).
- With data entry screens, the cursor is placed where the input is needed.
- Data formats are clearly indicated for input (e.g. dates) and output (e.g. units of values).
- Users can complete simple tasks by entering just essential information (with the system supplying the non-essential information by default).
- Forms allow users to stay with a single interaction method for as long as possible (i.e. users do not need to make numerous shifts from keyboard to mouse to keyboard).
- The user can change default values in form fields.
- Text entry fields indicate the amount and the format of data that needs to be entered.
- Forms are validated before the form is submitted.
- With data entry screens, the site carries out field-level checking and form-level checking at the appropriate time.
- The site makes it easy to correct errors (e.g. when a form is incomplete, positioning the cursor at the location where correction is required).
- There is consistency between data entry and data display.
- Labels are close to the data entry fields (e.g. labels are right justified).
You can also download translated versions of this checklist.
How to use these guidelines
Work through each of the items in the list and mark your site as either conforming or not conforming to the guideline.
Remember that all guidelines are context specific. If you feel that a guideline does not apply to your site, it's OK to ignore it.
These guidelines are purposefully expressed as positive statements, so that when you feed the results back to the design team you can identify some strengths of the design before you launch into the problems.
About the author
Dr. David Travis (@userfocus on Twitter) is a User Experience Strategist. He has worked in the fields of human factors, usability and user experience since 1989 and has published two books on usability. David helps both large firms and start ups connect with their customers and bring business ideas to market. If you like his articles, why not join the thousands of other people taking his free online user experience course?