More than a checkbox

A collaborative workshop on human-centred form design

February 14, 2024

One of the most effective ways to learn new skills is through doing. Workshops create a friendly, low-pressure environment where groups can bounce ideas off each other and learn with the support of experts leading the experience. 

Recently a client wanted to upskill in form design to help them create intuitive digital experiences for their members. They asked us to facilitate a collaborative hands-on workshop for their team to help them add form design tricks to their UX toolkit.

‘Good design goes unnoticed’ has never been more true than with forms. For many of us, forms are just a part of daily life; logging in, applying, subscribing, buying… but how many intuitive forms have you seen, compared to the online gauntlets of chaos that make you feel 😬🤯. The nuance of good form design is the difference between success and missed opportunities. Organisations must get it right. 

Kicking off the workshop 

To set the scene for the team, we began with an intro to human-centred design. This helped the group ground their thinking in a well-tested, widely adopted methodology. Although some interpretations are slightly different, the foundations of human-centred design remain the same:

Human-centred design is a methodology that puts people and their needs at the heart of the problem-solving process. Human-centred design is for everyone because we’re all problem solvers. 

Instead of being solution-focused, it’s about shifting to a problem-solving mindset; embracing ambiguity over certainty, showing not telling, and failing fast and iterating instead of trying to land on perfect the first time. Reminding teams of these principles frees them up to try new things with less worry about getting it ‘right’.

Learning from the past

Often the best place to start is looking at what’s already out there - how have others succeeded or failed? We asked participants to share examples of good and bad form design they’d encountered in real life. The discussion got everyone thinking critically; looking for opportunities, roadblocks, and ideas. 

Sharing best practices

After our round-table discussion, we were itching to jump in with improvements. Design may be ambiguous at times, but in the digital world there’s some best-practice rules that everyone should follow. We set the team up for success by discussing our top 10 form design principles and how to apply them. To give you a taste of the workshop, here are 3 of our 10 principles. 

  1. One thing at a time
    Grouping similar questions and using sections and spacing to break up the form helps give a sense of progress. Multi-step forms increase engagement because our brains like small, consistent pieces of information. 
  2. Only ask what you need to know
    It sounds basic, but fewer questions reduce friction. Ask yourself, if it’s not required, does it need to be there? And if it needs to stay, make sure those ‘nice to have’ questions are marked as ‘optional’ so users know what they can skip through.
  3. Clear and concise labels
    Short direct labels help reduce cognitive load and allow people to easily skim read the form. It also helps make the form more accessible for people who speak English as a second language. 

Bringing it all together

Prototyping is one of the many tools in our UX toolbelt. It’s our favourite way to test and iterate quickly (keeping true to the human-centred design approach) and it’s perfect for form design. Most people learn best through doing so we chose one of the ‘bad’ forms and asked the team to redesign it. 

For this exercise, we split into pairs to map the ideal experience. Teams rewrote questions, re-organised items and annotated the form logic on huge sheets on paper. Next they brought their ideas to life using printed elements from Octave’s wireframe kit and post-its. 

The outputs were great! Complex language was culled, long forms were split into sections, and one group even solved their problem of manual data entry by adding a logged in state to pre-fill repeated information. All of the teams brought a unique lens and nailed the brief.

Expand your design thinking skills

Our hands-on workshops are perfect for teams looking to upskill in human-centred design or add new methods to their toolkit. Each session is tailored to the group’s background, experience and needs making it suitable for beginners and old hats alike. 

If you’d like to discuss how we could support your team with a hands-on workshop, get in touch with