This morning I was browsing the new Drupal fueled look to evolt, a web developer site I’ve been tapping into for so long I cannot remember, and started reading Isaac Forman’s Usable Forms (for an international audience). It’s a good review of some of the pitfalls in web forms when we are not thinking enough about the audience… but the great quote for web designers, especially ones doing Web 2.0 work with sites running on databases:
Stop and think about the last contact form that you designed, or consider this the next time you have the opportunity:
Are you designing for your users? or Are you designing for your database?
That’s a great bold question to ask, and anyone’s experience in shopping online, requesting information via a web form, even some blog comment forms, should be saying, “Yeah! I’m wondering about that too!”
I am hoping to keep that in mind, or pasted on the wall above my work area.
In an upcoming segment, I’ll describe a new online event registration system we are rolling out now. In years past, each event had its own web form, and each set of information was stored in data islands (actually lowly text fields), so every time Jane Faculty registered for a workshop, she would enter her name, college, phone, email, discipline, etc. In our new system, this is done only the first time, registering the info in a database. For any other event thereafter, she only need enter her email, it retrieves all the other info from the database, and she just clicks the register button. But it goes beyond that simplicity; now we can analyze participation system-wide through different slices of data, and we can provide individuals a snapshot view of events/workshops previously attended or registered for in the future. And they can cancel an RSVP themselves rather than having to contact someone in our office.
A few pieces are still being built, but its working now for about 8 upcoming events.
Okay, this is a drift from making web forms usable for international audiences, but the point (I think) is designing for people first.