Benjamin Curtis

Speculations on Web Development

Web Form Suckage

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As a web developer always interested in refining my craft, I have an interest in the user interface and the user experience for the applications I build. I don’t have any design talents worth mentioning, but I can certainly appreciate a good design, and a structure that allows people to really enjoy using my applications. So I try to read up on UI/UX topics from time to time, so I can develop my skills in that area, and hopefully someday become better at creating good experiences, rather than just appreciating them.

Recently I read about a book that I thought worth buying, Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks (not an affiliate link to Amazon, heh). This blog post made a good case for purchasing the book, and as I clicked through to the page for the book on the publisher’s site, I thought the price was right for the digital edition of the book. So, I added the PDF version to my cart, and proceeded to check out, only to find a a large form, waiting to be filled in. Oh, the irony.

Sure, I can see that you need my email address and billing address to make sure you can charge me and get my purchase to me… but a company name, fax number, and whether my billing address is residential? Really, even the password fields aren’t necessary, as some sites (like, ahem, RailsKits) manage to get your digital goods to you without requiring you to create an account first. To top it off, since there’s no fields for collecting the payment info on this checkout page, I know I have yet another form to get through before I can buy the book.

If this form had fewer form fields, I’d already have purchased and read the book by now. Instead, I still haven’t made the purchase, even though I’ve spent more time and energy blogging about it than it would have taken to create the account they want me to create, just to pay for and download the PDF. To top it off, the blog post I linked to earlier talked about the case study that discusses the $300 million button – removing the requirement for account creation added that much revenue to an e-commerce site. I wonder how much this publisher has lost for the exact same reason?