Two weeks ago (25/10/2013) The Comedy Store in Manchester played host to the second Northern User Experience (NUX2) conference, an excuse for professionals across the industry and indeed the country, to get together and geek out about how people use the things we build.
The day was packed with insights from people in user experience positions from a diverse range of backgrounds, from web design to neuroscience. A few recognisable brands gave talks, such as Jane Murison from the BBC and Jamie Trollope from the DVLA.
One of the most striking talks for us here at Zeal was “Forms are Boring” by Joe Leech (@mrjoe). By his own admission, Joe has spent an unhealthy amount of time studying the lowly web form over the past decade, and listening to his (often funny) commentary on the subject proved insightful and entertaining. The truth is that forms are fundamentally important for so many websites – they handle the input of user data. They handle registration/login, adding comments to blog posts, selecting product quantities, credit card details and so on, so it is very important that forms be user-friendly and attractive.
Verified by Visa – broken form example
One shining example of poor form implementation is the “Verified by Visa” gateway you often see as an extra layer of security in many online transactions.
The design is poor because it doesn’t match the merchant branding, nor that of the issuing bank. The submit button just says “Submit” and does not describe the actual action, where “Cancel” doesn’t really tell the user what will happen after they click it. The text is too small and the lack of telephone number does not instil confidence in the end user. Joe wrote about possible improvements here.
Each speaker told anecdotes of their many usability testing sessions, where a variety of demographics had been given the opportunity to work with an interface to garner valuable insight into how they behave.
The interesting aspect of user testing is that pre-conceptions are often shattered. Like the tale of the 55 year old lady who clicked the up-arrow 55 times instead of manually typing in her age, or the significant proportion of users who struggle to use sliders accurately. These flourishes that we add to forms are often just inhibiting of a smooth user experience, and this puts the spotlight on HTML5 with its plethora of form items which enable this. We should use things like sliders and spinners with care and test them regularly to check that they are not having a negative impact on the user experience.
This was just one of the many tips we took away from NUX2; so many interesting insights from people in important roles in large organisations – bring on NUX3!