How do you decide what form fields to include?

Do you have a sneaking suspicion that your form is too long? Asking too much of the person trying to fill it out? You need to know how the information you’re asking for will be used.

You need to carefully consider every question

Why? Because every question has costs associated with it.

If there are too many questions, you will lose conversions.

If there are questions that users consider irrelevant or inappropriate, you’ll lose conversions and/or get made-up data.

If the form is more work than users expect, you will lose satisfaction.

There is a technical cost associated with processing and storing each piece of data.

You need a question protocol

A question protocol helps you decide which fields or questions are really necessary.

For each field/question, you need to identify:

  • Who needs/uses the information gathered in each question.
  • What they use the information for.
  • Whether the answer is required or optional.
  • If an answer is required, what happens if a user enters false data to get through the form.
  • Whether a question is open or closed.
  • If open, how much text is allowed.
  • If closed, what answer options should be provided.
  • Sequencing/conditional information.
  • Whether an answer can be prepopulated from existing data.
  • Whether an answer can be assumed (e.g., based on a cookie or location data), and then the user can edit or confirm it.

If you can’t fill out this information for each field or question, hunt it down or evaluate whether that field is really that important.

Download a question protocol template

Try out the question protocol for yourself. Evaluate an existing form to see if there are ways that you can shorten it, or apply it to new forms you’ve got in development.

Best practices are guidelines. Understanding them will give you a good place to start.

They are not hard and fast rules.

Always make decisions that are informed by user knowledge, testing, and feedback.

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