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Accessibility and Usability Forum

Form Usability Pet Peeves What Are Yours?

 6:23 pm on Apr 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ergophobes Pet Peeves

1. Password Form Usability: Incomplete Password Instructions.

I'm at a form right now that says:

minimum 8 characters in length
include at least 1 number and 1 letter
contain no spaces

Which raises the questions
- It tells me the minimum, but what's the maximum. I use Lastpass and I'll go 100 characters if allowed, but on a form like this, I have to go by trial and error.
- It says no spaces and at least 1 number and 1 letter, but what about '%&?\/ and so on?

In the case at hand, it actually allowed a very long password and any character I threw at it, but often I've found instructions like this with max lengths as low as 12 chars, and certain characters prohibited but not others.

2. Phone number forms usability

Phone number forms often should, ideally, simply strip non-integer characters and therefore should be "format agnostic" and also, inherently secure if you throw away everything but integers. Why should the form care if I put my phone number in as

(800) 123-4567

If you are going to require a format, make display it prominently below the box.

3. Ditto for Social Security Numbers and Credit Card Numbers

It's a lot easier for me to read if I can input my card number as it appears on the card. Don't tell me spaces are not allowed or that spaces are required! Just strip spaces and dashes, at least. But why not strip all non-numeric and then validate from there?

Okay, there's three. What are yours?



 7:07 pm on Apr 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Agree with all of those , drive you/ me, wild..

I'll add to "drive you wild things on forms"..

Ones that insist on a "zip code"..even for non USA international visitors..and then kicks you out because you don't have one ..

Yes they still exist !

( or a "UK post code" in the case of the companies house payment system run by I think it is, "netbanx", kicks me out every time because I don't have a UK postcode associated with my non UK bank card, so I have to phone and give all card details over the phone )

Another I found today when ordering from the USA.."international shipping will be calculated after checkout"..leads to a "one page checkout"..which asks for all billing and address details inc full name,credit card number,and CVV2 number..and... shipping cost will still only appear after the payment is authorised..

In other words shipping could be $500.00 but you'd find out only when you'd already had your card billed!

Phoned the company and did "the deed" over the phone..they confirmed that the shipping cost which would have been applied to the purchase via the "cart" would have been twice the price that they found for me during the phone call..

( The phone calls to USA and other places "cell" or "landline" do not cost me..no, it isn't "skype" )..

They did not know that their cart did not show shipping costs before the card is charged..

They offer free shipping in the USA..


 4:46 pm on May 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

On your #1, there's a little bit of reasoning behind it. People don't read. Seriously. They get extremely annoyed if they have to stop and actually READ what's in front of them, it's all about click-click-click. The developer and/or site owner are trying to keep it as simple as possible in the hope that their end users might take half a second to actually digest it. :-) While we techhies think on your levels, most people don't. Most of the passwords will wind up being in the form mykidsname123. :-\

#2 EXACTLY. Only marketers and designers think this kind of crap is important. If you want a number format wherever it submits, DO THE WORK and program it to do what you need, don't make the end user jump through hoops. Even the sample you provide is blown out of the water by . . . . international numbers. :-\ The same is true of zip codes, postal codes, provinces and states ("Oh we're not marketing to them, so we don't give a crap. Just do what I said because it is genius and you don't recognize it.")

#2 and #3: if you want specific formats, make the fields in the formats you want. Three boxes, style them pretty, and OMG make sure it has those round cornered drop shadows because stock forms are just TOO contrasty and legible. We can't have that. :-\

#4a: Overuse of jQuery libraries and ordinary Javascript to show and hide s**t with no graceful degradation when it's disabled. "Oh if they don't have Javascript we don't care about them anyway. Who disables Javascript? Screw them, I am GENIUS so let's do it this way." Okay if you want an answer - how about some AVG software disables JS without the end user really even knowing it? I guess their money isn't as good as everyone else's within your view.

#4b: Using everything you believe about 4a as an excuse to not duplicate the validations EXACTLY server side. "We're doing all that with Javascript." SNAP!

#5: Tab order. Go ahead and screw with the order of the source code for your Ultimate Web Vision Forms but make sure the tabs still work in a logical manner.

#6: Labels have a purpose. Use them.

#7: Links or input type="button" for submit buttons. Are you kidding me?

#8: multi step forms when they are not needed.

#9: No submit buttons at all. Email opt in's are the worst offender.

#10: "Make it so the radio buttons load without something selected." Ugh . . . . I won't even rant on this one or why it's just WRONG, or how much more work it makes for me if they aren't used as intended.

#11: And my absolute number one "you should be stripped of all computer access for life" offense . . . .

"You have an error in your form. Go back and fill out all required fields."

It boggles my mind that there are forms being coded, right now, probably thousands of them, with this approach. There's no excuse for it, and it's just plain LAZY. This is why I say "PHP is just too easy to learn." Sure, people did this back in the day with Perl and ASP, but it seems like the web is bursting at the seams with all kinds of lazy copy/paste just-get-it-working form handling and it's building a web that is insecure and decreasingly unusable.

When it comes to forms I can probably list hundreds . . . but don't want to derail your thread. As you were. :-)


 6:42 pm on May 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sorry rocknbill,

I couldn't read this post. You have an error in your post. Go back and fill out all required answers.

Okay, more seriously, got a couple of good laughs out of that list.

RE your response to my #1 - I understand that and I think on well-designed sites I often see people go the extra mile to have a "password help" link or, even better, a hover balloon for those of us who really want to know.

Also, consider the extra reading required if I go from

"At least eight characters"


"Between eight and twenty characters"

I would submit that the person who can't be bothered to read the second, won't read the first either!


 6:57 pm on May 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Oh yeah

Three boxes, style them pretty

I almost wrote in the first post that the "three boxes" model is fine if you are sure the input fits that format (which country's phone numbers are allowed?), but please, don't have javascript auto-advance me to the next box as soon as I've entered three characters and please please please, don't auto-advance on something like an onFocus event when three chars are detected. I've come across forms where you literally can't correct something if you make a mistake entering your area code.


 9:40 pm on May 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

My two are sites that insist on picking "State" from a list of US States for a UK address and the forms that reuire you to rekey every field if a mandatory field is missed or an invalid value entered.


 12:06 am on May 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have a related issue - many address validation routines insist that my legal address is invalid because it's not in their database.

Quite frequently they take the zip code and rewrite my address to the first locale, alphabetically, that matches that zip code. Unfortunately, that locale is 70 miles away, a two-hour drive and the road is buried under 10-30 feet of snow for much of the year and the post office is typically only open about three months per year. But nope, "Sorry bubb, can't use the address you gave us. We're telling you where you actual post office is."


 2:14 am on May 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

My two are sites that insist on picking "State" from a list of US States for a UK address and the forms that reuire you to rekey every field if a mandatory field is missed or an invalid value entered.

How 'bout the English-language forms that list all the countries in the world in an alphabetical dropdown? "Are we there yet?" "Hold on, dear, we just passed Uganda."

many address validation routines insist that my legal address is invalid because it's not in their database

Ever lived on an alphabet street? Apparently some address processors auto-expand N,S,E,W to North, South, East, West ... even if the NSEW isn't followed by anything. I used to live on E Street. Unfortunately my town also contains an East Street.

We won't talk about the ones who are certain they know better than your home town's mapmakers which end of the street is Smith Street, unmarked, and which end is East Smith or West Smith, marked. One of these days I'm going to bike down to West My Street, My House Number, apartment number My Number, and see if I find the person whose mail keeps showing up in my box addressed simply to My Street And Number. One time UPS even tried to deliver.

brotherhood of LAN

 2:25 am on May 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Forms that are using WAI-ARIA attributes as I'm having grief trying to manipulate them with mozrepl and javascript!

Mr Bo Jangles

 7:32 am on May 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

High on the list of offenders are US companies that have no idea of address or phone number formats outside of the big ol' USofA, and couldn't give a sxxt.

brotherhood of LAN

 5:42 am on May 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

I wonder what % of web forms would be able to handle this.

Woman registers new 161-word name [bbc.co.uk]


 6:45 am on May 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Clearly she is not Welsh, or they would be saying "Yes, but where's the rest of your name?"


 6:13 pm on May 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

That's some name. On the plus side, the .com domain name for her name is certainly not taken. On the down side, she's sure to run up against the 63-character limit (for a given component) or the 253-char limit (for the entire domain name).


 6:17 pm on May 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

If the majority of your form fillers are from the USA then put USA at the top of the COUNTRY section of a form in the alphabetical drop down (and again in alphabetical order for those who might miss it).


 10:32 pm on Jun 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Most definately CAPTCHA these have become completely unreadable now and often have to try several times before I can get it


 3:25 am on Jun 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

Ones that insist on a "zip code"..even for non USA international visitors.

Some US forms try to be smarter, so when I am forced to put a 5-digit value for my 4-digit Aussie postcode, with a leading zero, it tells me there is no such ZIP code! US schools need to educate Americans that there are other countries out there.

I learnt the hard way (when I designed a multi-national form builder tool for an employer) that Hong Kong has no postal codes! I had to make that field optional. My education was also lacking. :)

I also learnt that a form for Taiwan might need six rows for the address!

While not a form issue, it does bug me that my cheap Nokia phone I use while in the US does not accept the plus as an international prefix and forces me to enter 011.


 1:55 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

US schools need to educate Americans that there are other countries out there.

What? Where? Are you sure? In any case, it goes beyond schools. To my knowledge, we are the only country that holds "world championships" in sports and don't invite any other country to show up - football, baseball (Canada isn't another country is it?)


 3:11 am on Jun 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

Canada isn't another country is it?

Can't be, or they wouldn't let them into the NHL.

US schools need to educate Americans that there are other countries out there.

Conversely, people from New Mexico have occasionally had trouble convincing telephone sales agents that they are in the United States, have not called the wrong number, and do not need to apply via their own country. Apparently there were recurring problems involving ticket sales the last time the Olympics were held in the US...

In the interest of fairness, I should mention that I once overheard an Italian on a train explaining to his girlfriend that the US does contain a state called New York, but New York City is in the state of New Jersey.



 5:20 pm on Jun 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't think it's a cardinal sin to not take postal codes and phone numbers from outside your country if you will, under no circumstances, ship to other countries. It's annoying, but you're annoying non-customers.

And I will say, that sometimes you choose an off-the-shelf software for a variety of reasons, and sometimes at least one of the problems listed above is built-in, despite how much it drives you nuts, it may not be worth hacking the software and then not being able to fold in security updated.

state called New York, but New York City is in the state of New Jersey.

And for all intents and purposes, he was correct, right?

Can't be, or they wouldn't let them into the NHL.

Exactly. We wouldn't hold a world championship and invite another country. Canada is invited to both the Stanley Cup and the World Series. Ergo, it must be part of the United States.

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