Hello, it’s 2012, and I’m still filling out forms on the web, which is pretty much the same way it’s been since the web was invented, or at least started to catch on back in 1996-ish. Why are filling out forms on the web pretty much the same experience, i.e. BORING, as filling out forms on actual paper?
Recently, as in a couple days ago, I did my taxes using TurboTax. Now, I hate doing taxes, but actually loved the overall user experience of doing my taxes with it. Why? Doing taxes requires lots of forms. Complicated forms nonetheless. But TurboTax makes the experience of filling out forms actually enjoyable.
Back in 1996, when the web was on it’s way, interactive multimedia on CD-ROM was still king, and I worked for a company who produced CD-ROM’s for different industries, including hospitality. One of the projects we worked on included an RFQ form, that was to be filled out, printed and then faxed. Instead of the standard on-screen form with all the text fields and check boxes, we designed it to be interactive. We set it up so alll a user had to do was answer some questions, and then hit submit.
A finished, nicely formatted form was then produced so the user could print it and fax it- back then we didn’t have the abiltity to upload the form since FTP was pretty archaic and not what one would call user friendly by any stretch of the imagination. Still, the overall experience of filling out a form was better than it still is today in most cases.
Recently, as in a few months ago, I had the opportunity to interview with Disney’s Parks and Resorts Online group. During my interviews, they told me about a cool project that was done and now live, where there was the idea to get people to fill out an online form before going on a Disney cruise. Travelers could fill out the forms at the cruise terminal by hand, but by doing it online, they could save a lot of time.
So, to entice users to do the form online, they worked with the animation department to produce a short online video that harkens back to the old Goofy sports movies (it is Disney afterall), with Goofy giving examples of the advantages more or less of filling out the forms before heading off on vacation.
That to me was clever and overall a great idea. But some things stuck with me afterwards in regards to this and the overall user experience. Again, this is Disney, known world-wide for animation and Imagineering. Also, they are world class when it comes to the overall experience of their customers with the parks, products, films, and the like. So why entice users with a really fun animated piece only to fall short with a web form?
So consider this a freebie to Disney (Jay, Chris, Max), and well, to all the other companies out there who are forcing their users to fill out forms online using the standard tried and true method of filling out endless text boxes. Study and pick apart the TurboTax model of interaction. Doing taxes is serious stuff. But Intuit makes it a very pleasant experience.
To me they pretty much nail what an interactive form wizard (it basically is a nicely done wizard, the way a wizard should work – oh and being Disney, the experience is all about making things magical for their users…) should be. And while you’re making the form interactive, sprinkle in some Disney magic using Goofy, HTML5 and CSS3. Remember CD-ROM’s that had a person or character walk on screen to explain things or direct the user if need be?
What I dig about what Intuit is doing is we were doing this kind of stuff 16 years ago at a little interactive agency in what used to be a carriage house, and to see where it’s gone – although it’s taken a long time for some companies to catch on.
UX Design to me is the ideation, design and follow through in creating the overall EXPERIENCE – nothing should fall short of that. The problem with most things is I would consider them an “Almost there”, you know, like the Death Star trench run, only to have the missles impact on the surface and not hit the target. USE THE FORCE, LUKE.
Or, put another way, really think about what the end-user would want or truly enjoy. BE the end-user. Do you like filling out web forms? Probably not. We’re supposed to be thought leaders, game changers, usability Jedi Knights. We are supposed to make EVERYTHING a great experience.