I’ve been thrashing through mockups the last few weeks, and was frustrated with my initial versions of form designs, they seemed to take a few reviews before they were at a good starting point I felt would be easy to use. A friend of mine Peter Grearson pointed me to Web Form Design by Luke Wroblewski and it was fantastic.
The book is well structured, getting to the point with explanations, visual references, and references to previous studies, tests performed for the book and clearly stated when drawing on personal experience and preferences. This is great as i tend to get frustrated with authors which rant their personal preferences but don’t cough up any concrete evidence that their opinion is remotely valid when tested against real people.
This book doesn’t tell you all forms should be designed “X” way. Its funny that the author answers this question with “it depends”. Which when i first read the line, i thought; ‘you bastard, i’ve just bought this book and your not going to have an opinion at all’. But reading further on your provided with a number of example situations and research to backup which solution tested provided certain results. e.g. allowing you to assess if accuracy or speed (or a healthy balance of both) is more appropriate for your frame of reference.
Go check out the table of contents, read the first chapter if you want, but if you have to design a form, build a form, or in any way influence the creation of a form i highly recommend this book. It might just save me some time and pain filling out another crappy web form in the future, or even better save some lives in a hospital CRM system.