Web Form Design:
Filling in the Blanks
Luke Wroblewski / Rosenfeld Media, 2008 / ISBN 1-933820-24-1
$36.00 (paperback and digital) / $19.00 (digital only)
Reviewed by D. Philip Haine
“Forms suck.” So begins Luke Wroblewski’s new
book on how to design Web forms.
Nobody likes having to fill out a form; it’s just
that bit of red tape that must be dealt with before
we get what we want. Before we are approved,
there is an application form. Before we get to use
a Web service, there is a registration form. Before
our purchase is complete, there is a payment
form. Form completion is a cost we must pay
before we benefit.
Users may think that forms are a headache
to use, but they aren’t such a kick to design,
either. What’s fun is designing the heart of a
product—the parts people enjoy, appreciate, and
want to use, the parts that make a difference in
their lives. With forms, users will not write us
with heart-felt stories about how their lives were
improved by our right-justified labels. They will
not thank us profusely for putting just the right
amount of explanatory text underneath a field.
They will not tell their friends about how innovative our tab order is. When we achieve the highest
praise possible for form design (“Well, that wasn’t
too bad”), we have to pay for our own celebratory
While forms may thrill neither the user nor
the designer, they are nevertheless important.
Wrestling with a form frustrates the very customers we are trying to please: Customers feel
worse about our brand, and people can become so
confused or alienated that they walk away from
the transaction, leaving money on the table.
My bank’s website, for example, stubbornly
rejected my work unless I specified the dates
in the format MM/DD/YYYY. Imagine a human
teller saying: “I’m sorry, the date on your deposit
slip is not formatted according to our standards.
Please fix it and get back in line.”