Users deserve quality output. The quality of system input determines the quality of system output. It is vital that input forms, displays, and interactive Web documents be designed with this critical relationship in mind. Well-designed input forms, displays, and interactive Web fill-in forms should meet the objectives of effectiveness, accuracy, ease of use, consistency, simplicity, and attractiveness. All these objectives are attainable through the use of basic design principles, the knowledge of what is needed as input for the system, and an understanding of how users respond to different elements of forms and displays.
Effectiveness means that input forms, input displays, and fill-in forms on the Web all serve specific purposes for users of the information system, whereas accuracy refers to design that ensures proper completion. Ease of use means that forms and displays are straightforward and require no extra time for users to decipher. Consistency means that all input forms, whether they are input displays or fill-in forms on the Web, group data similarly from one application to the next, whereas simplicity refers to keeping those same designs uncluttered in a manner that focuses the user’s attention. Attractiveness implies that users will enjoy using input forms because of their appealing design.
This chapter has covered elements of input design for forms, displays, and Web fill-in forms. Well-designed input should meet the goals of effectiveness, accuracy, ease of use, simplicity, consistency, and attractiveness. Knowledge of many different design elements will allow the systems analyst to reach these goals. The four guidelines for well-designed input forms are the following: (1) make forms easy to fill in, (2) ensure that forms meet the purpose for which they are designed, (3) design forms to ensure accurate completion, and (4) keep forms attractive.
Design of useful forms, displays, and Web fill-in forms overlaps in many important ways, but there are some distinctions. Displays show a cursor that continually orients the user. Displays often provide assistance with input, whereas with the exception of preprinted instructions, it may be difficult to get additional assistance with a form. Web-based documents have additional capabilities, such as embedded hyperlinks, context-sensitive help functions, and feedback forms, to correct input before final submission. Skins can be added as an option to personalize a Web site.
The four guidelines for well-designed displays are as follows: (1) keep the display simple, (2) keep the display presentation consistent, (3) facilitate user movement among display screens and pages, and (4) create an attractive and pleasing display. Many different design elements allow the systems analyst to meet these guidelines.
The proper flow of paper forms, display screens, and fill-in forms on the Web is important. Forms should group information logically into seven categories, and displays should be divided into three main sections. Captions on forms and displays can be varied, as can font types and the weights of lines dividing subcategories of information. Multiple-part forms are another way to ensure that forms meet their intended purposes. Designers can use windows, pop-ups, dialog boxes, and defaults onscreen to ensure the effectiveness of design.
Event-response charts help the analyst to document what should happen when events occur. Dynamic Web pages modify the Web page in response to events. These can be constructed as three-dimensional Web pages. Ajax techniques request and receive a small amount of data from the server and use the data to modify the Web page on the fly.
Web fill-in forms should be constructed with the following seven guidelines in mind as well as those in the previous chapter “Designing Effective Output“:
- Provide clear instructions.
- Demonstrate a logical entry sequence for fill-in forms.
- Use a variety of text boxes, push buttons, drop-down menus, check boxes, and radio buttons.
- Provide a scrolling text box if you are uncertain about how much space users will need to respond to a question.
- Prepare two basic buttons on every Web fill-in form: Submit and Clear Form.
- If the form is lengthy and the users must scroll extensively, divide the form into several simpler forms on separate pages.
- Create a feedback screen that highlights errors in an appropriate color and refuses submission of the form until mandatory fields are correctly filled in.
Once you have mastered the material in this chapter you will be able to:
- Design functional input forms for users of business systems.
- Design engaging input displays for users of information systems.
- Design useful input forms for people interacting on the Web.
- Design useful input pages for users of intranets and the Internet.