UX in the Real World: Form Frustration

Yesterday I filled out a very long application form.  At the end I was asked to submit my billing address in a typical form:

The City dropdown is required, but here’s the catch: it doesn’t have any values.

Empty select tag from the server.

So after spending an hour filling out an application I can’t submit it.

I really needed to submit this form.  I spent 15 frustrating minutes fiddling with it.  Eventually I realized that I had skipped the ‘Payee is on the application’ radio button option.  Clicking this filled in the city automatically.  It seems as though the designer was trying to save me time – but ended up exchanging 5 seconds of entering my city manually for 15 minutes of frustration.

Most of the time this experience would have been a deal-breaker for me, but unfortunately I didn’t have an option to use a different product.  Most products do not have this benefit.  Are your forms frustrating?  Do your users have other options?

Take-aways:

  • Don’t expect users to fill out fields in a certain order
  • If order is important, make it obvious that some fields should be filled out before others.  Order is not sufficient.
  • If any field is unusable when the page first loads add validation in case the field is not usable when the user tries to use it.  This message should tell the user exactly what she needs to do to progress.