Posted by:Nithin Rao April 24th, 2014

This post is part of a series (read parts 1, 2 and 3 here) on building forms in mobile apps.

Good mobile app design is all about making the user do as little ‘work’ as possible. Mobile app users are on-the-move and don’t have as much time as they probably would when seated at home in front of the desktop. They shouldn’t have to do too much to get to some screen, find what they want or just get the app to do what it claims it does. The same holds true for mobile app forms too. Forms, by nature, are meant to make the user do some work anyway, but you can help by keeping that minimal. Let’s see how.

Typing in several lines of text into a form is a big turn-off for most app users. The fact that they are looking at a small palm-sized screen just makes it that much more difficult. Help the user out by minimizing the typing effort needed.  While dictionary prompts have been around for a while, you can go a step further and use intelligence local to the app and auto-suggest values based on the user’s input history. With native apps, it is easy to use a device-based database for local storage of input history – of course, with the security aspects duly taken care of! You could also auto-suggest inputs based on information such as for example, popular entries across your user base. An interesting case-in-point is Twitter’s native app where typing a @ or a # will auto-suggest Twitter handles or trending topics respectively and users love the feature for the ease of ‘tweeting’ that it brings in!

Depending on what your app does, you could go the extra mile and suggest input based on the user’s geo-location. Perhaps suggest a nearby pick-up location for someone booking a cab or the nearest center available for a student trying to book an examination slot.

If the user allows your app to use the phone’s Contacts information, you could also auto-suggest from the names available on the list. Let’s say someone is trying to create a custom friend list in the app or a group of other app users they want to network with – instead of having to add people’s details themselves, they would find it easier to simply choose from their Contacts and import the details in.

The iOS keypad that complements web-based mobile app forms has the Previous, Next and Autofill buttons that help the user with ease of navigation and quickness of operation. The Autofill feature is something that the user can control using the phone’s Settings section. All they need to do is simply select a Contact  (usually they would create one that spells out their own details) from their Contacts list and assign it to be used with Autofill. And then filling up forms on the mobile web becomes easier than ever! Make sure you design your mobile website keeping in mind this really cool feature from Apple.

Equip your input text fields with features such as auto-correct, auto-capitalization and auto-complete. This is however subjective and there will be cases where these are more of a pain than an aid! For example, for a username email field, auto-capitalize will most likely earn you a frown from users as they turn it off in the keypad before they continue with login!

We will continue with more pointers to mobile app form-building in subsequent posts. Meanwhile, do share your ideas on the topic in the comments section below.

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