Giving your input fields room to breathe

27Dec07

There are many great articles (and even whole books) about how to design data entry forms. Despite this wide body of knowledge, the basic rules still seem to elude a lot of web designers. In particular, designers are still creating input fields that are too short to fit the data that customers typically enter.

Actually, these input boxes let you enter plenty of data. Their storage capacity is fine. The real problem is that they’re too short, so you only see the first 10 or 20 characters at once. Granted, you can use the arrow keys to see the rest of what you typed. But why make users do that? Isn’t it better to let them see all their info at a glance? Of course it is.

As a rule of thumb, start by using your log files to determine what people typically enter into these boxes. Ignore the largest 20% of entries, and make your input box big enough to fit what the remaining 80% of people are actually typing. Similar rules help dictate when you should use a multi-line text box instead of the standard, single-line version. There is a lot more to say about this subject, but even the small change I described would be a big improvement for most websites.



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