10 best practices for mobile form design

if_seo_web-46_1046182.pngUX Matters had this interesting article on mobile form design. At frevvo, we’ve created thousands of forms and workflows for mobile devicesand we’ve learned a lot along the way. One thing is absolutely true:

“As technology continues to go through metamorphoses and our understanding of users’ needs becomes more refined, good mobile form design is constantly evolving.”
– Quoted from above article

Getting your forms to be genuinely usable on mobile devices is hard but can have big benefits. Fortunately, with frevvo, you don’t have to worry too much about this. Let’s take a look at a few things mentioned in the above excellent article:

1. Use a single input field where possible

It’s all well and good to say create a single input field called Name but if the form integrates with your CRM or some other back end system, maybe a First and Last name are required. With frevvo, you have all the flexibility in the world. Display a single field on the form called Full Name and use a business rule to split it into First and Last name hidden fields if that’s what you need. There’s going to be some guesswork to split it accurately but you can automatically get it right most of the time. Serve the needs of your marketing team and your users at the same time.

2. Create a conversational flow

if_seo_web_2-43_1045323.pngAs Justin Mifsud pointed out back in 2011, “A form is a conversation, not an interrogation.” The flow of information in the form should have a conversational feel. Usually, this means split the form up into multiple pages that feel natural. But, you have to consider differences between mobile and desktop forms. What might be natural on a phone with its limited screen real estate doesn’t make sense on the desktop and could be irritating – why do I have to walk through so many steps?

Fortunately, frevvo makes it easy. Simply drag in Page Break controls and mark them smart phone only. On a desktop or tablet with lots of screen real estate, you’ll see the whole form (or Section or Tab). On the phone, it’s broken up into multiple pages with automatic Next and Previous buttons.

3. Automatically pre-fill values in fields

No explanation necessary – the less stuff users have to fill in the better off you are. This is one of frevvo’s strongest suits. You can pre-fill information from any number of sources. For example, check out this example that fills out Customer information from a SQL database. Another common example: if the user is logged in, you can automatically fill in their personal information. It eliminates errors, reduces typing and is far less frustrating for users.

For mobile users, frevvo supports functionality like GPS integration. You can use the GPS device on the phone to pre-fill an address field or figure out the location of the closest physical store and display it on the form.

4. Make forms accessible

From the UX Matters article: Of the people who have disabilities, 91% use a mobile device, according to a 2013 study (PDF) by the Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center. Wow! I had no idea. Technology, especially mobile technology is making the world more and more accessible to people with disabilities but only with accessible mobile design.

Fortunately, with frevvo, accessible design is just built-in. Our forms and workflows have been accessible (satisfying WCAG guidelines) for years. Government organizations worldwide have legal requirements to provide accessible forms and many are already using frevvo for their constituents.

5. Break up lengthy forms into steps or stages

if_seo_web-48_1046184.pngThis is very connected to #2 above. With frevvo, breaking up lengthy forms into steps is a piece of cake. What’s best is that you can design your form once and set it up so that it’s broken up into steps on a phone with automatically generated Next and Back buttons. On the desktop with its abundant real estate, you can simply show the entire form or break it up into fewer steps. Again, satisfy the needs of your users with a natural user experience no matter where you are.

You can also create multi-step flows in frevvo (we call them screen flows) that explicitly walk you through multiple steps on all devices with a progress bar / nav bar at the top etc. It’s totally up to you.

6. Create minimal forms, but ask the essential questions.

rb-03This is a particularly crucial aspect of form design. Obviously, in frevvo, you can create as minimal a form as you want. One of the most effective things we’ve found is context-sensitive show/hide. It’s easy with frevvo using simple, visually-built business rules. In any form that’s displayed, hide away unnecessary fields until they’re actually “essential”. For example, on an Employment Eligibility Verification form, some questions may only be applicable to non-citizens. Hide them away until the user selects the “I’m not a citizen” option.

You’ll find that users are less confused and more likely to complete and submit your form if the screen is less cluttered. It seems obvious and fortunately, with frevvo, it’s also a piece of cake.

7. Display mobile-friendly error messages.

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This is yet another crucial aspects of good UX. IMHO, this is applicable on all devices not just mobile. We’ve seen so many instances of forms where you fill it out, submit, the server thinks for a while and reloads the page with errors. The errors may be displayed at the top far away from the fields. It’s a nightmare.

With frevvo, user-friendly error handling has always been a priority. Validation of controls is instant and usually automatic. If there’s an error, the user will know immediately. The control visibly changes (color/icon) and an error message appears right below the control. You can customize this message to be meaningful to the user and it can even be configured dynamically so that it tells the user precisely what went wrong.

With frevvo, you also cannot submit invalid forms. If required controls aren’t filled in or there are errors and a user still clicks Submit, the form will automatically highlight the errors/missing data. If you want, you can also display one or more custom messages right above the Submit button that was clicked so the user knows that something went wrong.

The thing you want to avoid is “Oops! An error occurred. Please try later.” Nothing’s more frustrating for users. Fortunately, with frevvo mobile [and other] user friendly error handling is automatic and built-in.

8. Avoid using drop-down menus and lists.

It’s true. Long drop down menus/lists are not very user friendly on mobile. Where they can’t be avoided, frevvo does provide a natural mobile friendly experience. For shorter lists, we definitely prefer radio buttons. With frevvo, it’s easy to lay them out so that if two or more fit on a single row, they’ll be laid out side by side and consume less real estate.

frevvo also offers an auto-complete Combo box though we’ve found that it’s not necessarily a better experience on mobile than a pick list. The good news is you can choose whichever control makes sense for your needs.

More from frevvo

9. Bigger buttons, radios etc.

One of the other things we’ve learned is that it’s genuinely harder to click things with your fingers on mobile. Therefore, in spite of the reduced real estate, frevvo’s controls are subtly larger, buttons are just a bit bigger, radios are easier to click on etc.

10. Responsive forms

LandscapeWhen fonts are too small to read or the screen looks cramped, what will many users do? Rotate the device to landscape mode so there’s more horizontal real estate. Nothing’s more frustrating and annoying than to see the same size form with the same fonts displayed on the landscape screen – even Google and Amazon do it.

With frevvo, all this is just automatic. From big wide desktop screens to small smart phones, your forms will automatically adjust. Rotate your device – the form will expand to take up all available space. Zero CSS3 or HTML5 or any code. It just works.

11. BONUS – Good looks

Let’s face it. People are more likely to use UIs that look good. Forms aren’t the world’s sexiest user interface but they are ubiquitous. Might as well make them look great. With frevvo, that’s also automatic 🙂 Do nothing and your forms will just look good on all devices. And there are many little bits of eye candy such as decorators – add little meaningful icons to your controls e.g. an envelope for an Email field or a map marker for a Zip Code. Styles let you customize colors so your forms fit into your brand and website. These are little things but they can make a huge difference.

Mobile is everywhere and forms are everywhere. You probably have mobile users filling out forms and participating in workflows in your organization. With frevvo, make them mobile friendly without the need to spend significant resources and money.

 

 

 

How Process Automation could save you $50,000 every year

roi.pngAre you wondering if you should automate your routine day-to-day approvals? You’d be amazed at the Return on Investment. Let’s do a quick analysis. Approval workflows are usually at least 3 steps long and, often quite a bit longer. For now, let’s consider a 3-step workflow:

  1. Performed by an Employee, for example, asking for a Travel Authorization or Purchase Requisition. Maybe a Salesperson is trying to get a PO from a Client and needs Manager approval for special pricing. Let’s say this employee costs $80,000/year including benefits, vacation, taxes and other costs. Typically this would translate to a salary of about $60,000.
  2. Performed by a Manager who essentially checks the request, approves it if it is valid or sends it back for corrections. Let’s say the manager costs $100,000/year inclusive of all costs.
  3. Performed by an HR or Finance person who essentially updates an internal system and does the equivalent of filing the request away (email folder, network drive, paper filing cabinet, document management system). Let’s assume this person costs $60,000/year inclusive of all costs. Maybe they work part-time.

Now, assume that the time savings are 10 min, 3 min and 3 min respectively in each step. That’s pretty conservative given there’s no printing, signing, scanning etc. involved. Finally, assume that there are 400 approvals per month of all kinds (Vacation requests, Sales Orders, Time Sheets, Travel Authorizations etc.)

How much do you think you will save in costs? You might be shocked:

You’ll save ~$50,000 every single year or 57% of your costs and see net positive ROI in just a bit over 2 months.

It’s amazing how much the paper/email process actually costs you – close to $85K per year. And that doesn’t even take into account the time spent trying to track down emails, chasing down managers for signatures or, perhaps of greater importance, the Opportunity Cost of delayed approvals.

Try it yourself by clicking the button below.

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It’s often hard to see how much those paper/email workflows are really costing you. Visit our website to view customer success stories and signup for a free trial.

[Webinar recording] What’s new in frevvo 7.3

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New in V7.3

frevvo 7.3 was recently released. We’ve added some cool new functionality and improved it in ways that are really important to customers.

We’re also excited about some upcoming developments including big improvements to the Visual Rule Builder coming soon as part of V7.4 this year.

Watch this video recording of the webinar where MaryAnn demonstrated several new and upcoming capabilities including:

  • Connecting to SharePoint using point and click wizards. You can save your data and documents to lists or libraries.
  • Visual Precondition Rule Builder.
  • Connecting pick lists to web services with zero code.
  • One-click Save and Test. A little thing that customers have been wanting.
  • Visual Rule Builder for calculations and other advanced functions (coming in V7.4).

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Get people to actually use your shiny new workflows

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Hint: It’s all about Usability!

You’ve invested in workflow automation. Looks great but sometimes getting people to actually use it can itself be a Sisyphean task. People resist change and will quickly fall back to bad habits like emailing PDFs and Excel spreadsheets around to manage key information.

So, how do you onboard your users?

1. Involve them from the beginning

This is a pretty obvious one. The earlier you get stakeholders into the process the more likely they are to adopt it. People are naturally more invested in a solution that they’ve had a chance to impact. Soliciting feedback and actually implementing suggestions are critical elements.

When we work with customers on a new project, we go to great lengths to set this up. We spend time upfront to make sure we’re building something users want and make sure there are at least a couple of UAT-Change Request Implementation cycles. That way, the people who have to actually use the new system can affect it.

2. Usability, Usability, Usability!

if_seo_web-34_1046124.pngI can’t stress this enough. It does not matter how robust and awesome your system is. If it’s hard to use, it will not be adopted. If it looks good and is easy to use, people will forgive other shortcomings.

Usability (for end users) should probably be your #1 criterion in selecting a workflow automation system. Some tips:

  • Great Looks: Employees are also consumers. They use slick apps everyday and get used to a fantastic UX. If work apps have old-fashioned, clunky UIs they’ll never catch on.
  • Sensible Terminology: Make sure your buttons, labels, messages are familiar and helpful. For example, if the workflow will route to the CFO for secondary approval the button should say “Route to CFO” rather than the generic “Continue”.
  • Help Text: Some fields require further explanation. The Label is not always enough. Take the time to add help and it can make a huge difference. Tooltips and placeholders are other options.
  • Mobile friendly: It has to work naturally on all devices. Buttons might need to be slightly larger on mobile so they’re easier to click using your finger. Forms may need to be broken up into multiple pages to avoid overwhelming smaller screens.
  • Speed: Don’t underestimate the value of performance. People love systems where they don’t have to wait around.
  • Consistency: A big part of great UX is consistency. Buttons should be in the same place, labels should follow consistent conventions, the look & feel should not vary dramatically from one process to the next.

3. Training / Feedback

1492276951_seo_web_3-01.pngEnd user training should be part of every rollout. But, it’s just the first step. Once people have used the new system for a period of time, they’ll have feedback for you. It’s worth going back and actually talking to stakeholders – is this helping you? Are you doing less manual work? Do you genuinely have more time for things that matter? What can we improve?

4. Iterative improvement

Once people tell you what you can improve, it’s important to go back and actually address issues as quickly as possible. Nothing’s more frustrating than getting it 90% right only to see users abandon your system because you overlooked a couple of things.

5. Communicate success

Share meaningful success stories with everyone involved in the system. Recognizing people’s efforts (company meeting, spot awards) in bringing change to the organization will always be appreciated as long as you don’t overdo it and the recognition is for real measurable gains.

Ultimately, though, we’d advise you to focus hardest on Usability. If they find it hard to use the new workflows, the rest doesn’t matter.