Here at Bazaarvoice, we’re constantly focused on improving the user experience for our products. From the initial email invitation, to the submission form, to the way in which reviews are presented, we want to make sure that our interfaces are as flexible and intuitive as possible.
Part of my job on the mobile team at Bazaarvoice is to make sure that our products reflect best practices when displayed on mobile devices. In reality, that means running hands-on user tests, A/B testing different designs, and gathering detailed information about the way in which users interact with our products.
Recently, we ran a test with Buckle, one of our partner clients, to experiment with various mobile-friendly submission forms. What follows are some of the takeaways from those experiments.
1. Handle Landscape Mode Gracefully
It is important that users are able to navigate forms easily while in landscape mode. It becomes particularly important to support landscape for form fields that solicit text input. We found that mobile users will, on average, input about 20% fewer words in their reviews than desktop users, so the last thing we want to do is to make it even more difficult to enter text. Many users prefer to type in landscape mode as it provides for a larger keyboard.
2. Make Interactions Easy
Generally, a desktop user with a mouse can interact much more precisely than a mobile user with a clumsy finger. Therefore, it is important to make sure that elements are large enough to be either clicked or tapped. Apple recommends that tappable elements be at least 44×44 pixels. In our experimental form, we intentionally oversized our radio buttons, selection drop-downs and sliders to make the form easier to interact with and to prevent form errors.
Additionally, mobile devices provide a number of different keyboard layouts for different types of inputs. For instance, an input type of “email” might surface the @ symbol to make it more readily accessible. In order to take advantage of the various keyboard layouts, be sure to properly specify the input type on your form elements.
3. Snappy Over Flashy
When designing for mobile, be sure to prioritize function over flashiness. Slick animations can greatly improve the usability and “wow” factor of a site, but they should be used sparingly. If necessary, use hardware-accelerated transforms to minimize sluggishness.
4. Choose The Most Efficient Form Path
Overall, our goal is to allow the user to complete our form in the quickest, simplest manner possible. In our testing, we found that a surprising number of users preferred to navigate and exit form elements via the “done” button rather than using the next/previous buttons. This has several interesting consequences.
First, short forms are better than tall forms. While some users “tab” through fields, most users scroll. By minimizing the vertical spacing between elements, users do not need to scroll as far to get to the next field.
Second, for most users, the interaction with a select element will involve 3 clicks: open, select, and done. Therefore, if a user is selecting between just a few options, it is better to use oversized radio buttons than select elements.
5. Provide Instant Feedback
If a user submits an invalid form value such as a malformed email address, provide a clear error message that instructs the user how to fix the error. If possible, provide an error near the offending field. Additionally, once the form field becomes valid, notify the user immediately rather than requiring the user to submit the form again.
For our experimental form, we used the JQuery validation library, which makes basic form validation dead simple. Since it is all client side, it makes validation snappy as well.
Our tests are ongoing, so be on the lookout for more updates soon. Until then, hopefully these insights will be valuable to others as the Internet becomes more mobile-friendly.