Posted by:Nithin Rao May 6th, 2014

This post is part of a series (read parts 1234 and 5 here) on building forms in mobile apps.

Continuing on the lines of the previous two posts, here are a few additional ways in which you can bring down the necessity for the user to key in stuff into mobile forms but still get them completed. We also explain here the importance of quick, on-screen assistance in for ensuring that the user gets to the end of the form in a hassle-free manner.

Automate and auto-populate as much of input as you can. Inputs that are open knowledge must be auto-populated as far as possible. For example, typing in a ZIP code should auto-populate the City and State fields. Or just allow users to check a box called ‘Use my current location’ and fill in the address automatically!

Providing default inputs, wherever applicable, is another good practice. For example, default the shipping address to be the same as billing address but give the user the option to override the same with another address.

Talking of sign-up forms, they are never really fun and people would much rather go with an easier automated way to register with and use your app. Social sign-ups are a great way to make this happen. Allow your users to login to your app using their Facebook, Twitter and other social networking accounts and you will see a surge in the number of users signing in. Not only does this mechanism save people the effort of filling out yet another sign-up form; it also helps them have less passwords to remember!

Inputs that need some form of general knowledge must be aided with quick on-screen assistance. As a simple example, you may have this fun app that asks people for their Zodiac sign and provides forecasts and personality traits based on that. Now for those who don’t know which Zodiac they belong to, they would obviously want to google it. Desktop users filling out a form on a website have the luxury of doing a quick ‘open new tab’ in their browser, google for info they want, and then switch back to the tab that has the form and type in the same. For mobile users, it isn’t that quick. They would have to exit the app, launch the browser, google what they need and then come back. As a rule, try to avoid the need for people to leave the app to complete a form. There is a good chance they’ll never come back! Provide as much info as possible in-house. Going back to the example, showcase all the Zodiac signs as options to choose from and append each one with the corresponding date information in a differently colored, smaller font. So while this informative text is there for those who need it, it is still not intrusive to the regular user.

In general, mobile forms should be self-explanatory and easy to fill. But there will be cases when you need to explain to the user what a field is for or why a certain input is needed. Provide guidance in ways that are not interfering to the user’s form-filling actions. Blurbs are the tooltip equivalents on mobile apps. They can be made to pop up (on tap) right next to a field and dismissed quickly with a tap anywhere on the rest of the screen. Placeholders in fields as example inputs also help.

When the user needs to fill out a form that needs her to reference some information within the app, make sure the contextual info is easily available at hand. Slide-in pages that can be easily accessed and dismissed with a sidebar icon, are a good option for this. It is important to ensure that the info filled into the form is not lost when the user comes back to the screen after referencing the contextual content.

More to come in the next post. Till then, see if you can apply any of the features described so far, in your apps and let us know your thoughts.

So, eager to learn more about Mobility ? Deep dive into your topic of interest !

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