Web Form Design: Missing the Big Picture

I ran across a book titled Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks by Luke Wroblewski which, according to glowing blurbs from well known folks, a great book on web form design. But, when I proceeded checkout after placing the digital copy in the shopping cart, this web form smacked me in the face:


While the form may be clean looking and arguably well organized, it made me abandoned the purchase. Why do I need to create an account with two-book publisher website to purchase the book? If the form was optional and discount was offered in exchange, I might have thought about it but not if it’s a requirement without a matching reward. I also didn’t see why they needed my address when I am buying a digital copy?

The lesson here is:

Web designers should first justify, from the customer’s perspective, the need for each form and its components well before sculpting them into perfection.

6 thoughts on “Web Form Design: Missing the Big Picture

  1. The address is your billing address – they need it to charge your credit card. If you paid by Paypal, then different story – they don’t need it.

    Nitpicking aside, I agree with your sentiment.

  2. It seems the form doesn’t ask you to specify payment method when they ask you for your address and phone number. Ideally, they should use PayPal and remove the need to enter to provide that information to them at all.*

    The paperback version of this book is available at Bookpool (out of stock) and Amazon has the paperback version of Mental Models. If Rosenfeld doesn’t want to offer PayPal w/o address and phone number, they should let Bookpool and Amazon sell the digital versions as well. Any additional cost would be a small price to pay for some additional piece of mind.

    * I should note that some sites ask for your billing address and phone number even if you’re using PayPal. Share-It! used by some software developers comes to mind.

  3. It’s my perspective that significant part of UI is about engaging in conversations with users, helping them along paths they want to take, leading on along paths we want them to take, whispering little stories at every step.

    All too often, engineers forget to consider the business solution to technical problems. Paypal, like you guys mentioned, is one of them. If, by using Paypal, UI can be improved, it deserves a place in a UI designer’s potpourri of tricks.

    Vice versa, technical changes can solve business problems. Many third-party Twitter services fail to do this, leading them to abuse the API, exposing themselves to business risks.

  4. Hi Don, obviously please don’t use the first two of my postings. I was actually responding to another blog entry that popped up around the same time as yours where the poster had some similar concerns with our forms. I accidentally posted my response at the same time as yours (as I’d been working on them both in the same window). You might find that posting and its comments of interest as well (the blog entry is included), but I’d appreciate it if you’d just post my trimmed response to your entry, as it’ll make far more sense.

    Also, when I went to your About page to find a way to contact you (not there, BTW), I scanned a little too quickly and now realize that it was one of your commenters that mentioned being Korean, not you. So feel free to trim my mention of the Korean translation (unless you are indeed posting from Korea).

    Sorry for the confusion…

  5. Hi Lou.

    First, allow me to apologize if ‘two-book publisher’ came off as a put down. It wasn’t.

    Second, I understand that day-to-day business headaches can lead to less than desirable results. I wasn’t criticizing your company nor your books but was using the ironical misfortune in your site design as an example to illustrate a point. It was an impolite thing to do and I should have added more blurbs to dull the sharp edges but I didn’t. I plead lazyness.

    Third, I’ve been accused of being a Korean before and I’ve always answered “Was it my Kimchi breath that tipped you off?” Jokes aside, I was born in Korea but, after living in the States for 34 years, I feel like a cultural mutt, both and neither.

    BTW, it’s good that Korean translations of your books are coming but I would be most interested in books about oversea markets because they have very different forces and dynamics at work that renders powerhouses like Google and Yahoo bewildered and ineffective even now.

    (please let me know if you didn’t want me to delete the long comment preceding the last one. I can restore it.)

  6. Hi Don, I’m obviously posting too late at night, and making too many mistakes! I’d meant to say to use my second posting; no need to publish the first, or the third, though now that it’s up, no worries. And I didn’t think you were impolite at all; it’s good input, and I really appreciate that you took the time to share it. We’ve actually vastly improved our cart (if you can believe it!) since launching a year ago, all thanks to customer feedback. In any case, thanks again and apologies for the confusion.

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