The Form Book

The Form Book

Creating Forms for Printed and Online Use

Borries Schwesinger

Condescending and Incomprehensible

Why certain questions are asked, and what happens to the information is often unclear to users, and so they cannot foresee the consequences of their own actions. By filling in the form, they are therefore taking a potential risk. They see themselves confronted by a bureaucracy that is a kind of 'black box' system whose workings cannot be seen, and so they feel vulnerable and oppressed.

Forms can be hard to understand and off-putting in both language and design. Often it is not clear what information is supposed to be supplied and where it should go. Questions are easily misconstrued, terms and explanations can be contradictory and hard to read, and there may be too many pages to take in. Users are left feeling frustrated and disorientated.