I tried to sign up for six free months of a digital magazine the other day. There were only six fields to enter, yet despite the small number of fields, I suspect this online form had never been tested. Why? Because there were two glaring errors in it that jumped out as soon as I tried to sign up.
- Error 1: Not telling me which fields were mandatory. There were no visual or textual indicators to tell me that all the fields were mandatory. Nothing. No red asterisks, no explanatory text. Nothing.
- Error 2: Giving me incorrect error message when I didn’t complete a mandatory field. When I see a form that doesn’t tell me which fields are mandatory, I deliberately try to enter as little personal information as possible. There are two reasons for this — keeping stuff private that I don’t want to disclose and that I don’t think the company that’s asking needs to know, and checking if the form’s design team actually tested the form and put in appropriate validation error messages.
I entered everything except my surname. When I clicked Submit Details, I got an error message telling me that I had to enter my first name. What the…? I’d already entered my first name — it was my surname that they wanted, yet that’s not what the error message told me.
How hard is it to test SIX fields? Here’s the answer — it’s not hard at all! I’ve done it and it takes very little time. And how hard is it to use some of that white space to indicate that the fields are mandatory? Again, not hard.
Web developers have been designing online forms for 15 or more years now — there’s just no excuse for getting this simple stuff wrong.