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I'm looking for evidence to support changing order of fields in various contact forms.

The first is a general form with:

  • Enquiry details - textarea
  • Where did you hear about us? - textarea

  • Contact Name - input
  • Company Name - input
  • Job Title - input
  • Address - textarea
  • Town - textarea
  • Postcode/Zip - input
  • Country - input Phone
  • Number - input
  • Email - input

I'm obviously going to review which fields are needed in the first place (and the order of the personal details fields) but I am wanting to know:

Should the enquiry textarea be better placed after the personal details? Bearing in mind that other forms (there are 9) have far more detailed questions/fields than just 1 simple textarea and I presume that the order would follow the same pattern across all these forms (Specific detail/options then user details or the other way round).

I found what is the ideal order of fields to have in a contact form? and can agree that I should consider an enquiry form as a conversation but have no solid evidence when considered with 9 different forms?

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3  
A 'Where did you hear about us' field? * shudder * –  JonW Oct 31 '12 at 12:14
    
i know, i know! –  Mark Oct 31 '12 at 12:17
    
For what kind of inquiry is this form? Some sort of support or reporting a problem? –  greenforest Oct 31 '12 at 17:51
    
Sorry greenforest (brand new to this but that's no excuse!) The general form is a web contact form (i'm interested in contacting you to find out more and here are my details). The other forms are similar in that they are contact forms that the user has to provide their contact details but the other forms ask more questions related to particular products e.g. What operating system do you have? Which application are you interested in? –  Mark Nov 1 '12 at 12:14
    
Possible duplicate: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/14466/… –  marcvangend Oct 17 '13 at 8:48

1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I personally feel like if you try to think of your application as a real life human being, then it helps design all the interactions with a user in a more meaningful way.

So in this example, the user wants to ask your app a question/enquiry. Now if your app was a human being, how would that play out?

User: Hello, I have a question. Do you have the Planet Earth series on blu-ray ?

Your app: First, tell me who you are, where you are from, what's your phone number, where you live, how you heard about us, etc. And then you can ask your question.

User: But I just want to ask a simple question. Why do you need to know my address to even ask a question?

See where I'm going with this? Now you may have thought of this already and probably don't have a choice if your manager is forcing you to ask those questions to the user but I just want to throw it out there. Something for you to think about.

Imagine if it was the other way around. What if it was your app asking the user a question? You've seen TV show hosts/reporters asking people on the street some random question about politics or sports or something. This is how it goes.

Reporter: Hi, what's your name?

User: Dwight Shrute.

Reporter: Where are you from, Dwight?

User: Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Reporter: Scranton, cool! What do you do?

User: I'm a paper salesman.

Reporter: Nice! So what do you think about electronic voting machines, Dwight?

As you can see, now it makes more sense to ask the user about his background before you get to the question, which seems natural human behavior.

To summarize, the order depends on who is initiating the conversation; your app or the user.

And in this case since it is your user that has to enquire the app, starting with the question field first makes more sense.

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Great answer! Good design should guide the user naturally throughout the entire piece (application, site, brochure, manual, etc.) without requiring effort from the user. The order of form elements should follow this same rule. Filling out a form that flows naturally will make the user's effort seem minimal, as @Girish describes, and avoid that "Ugghhh more questions????" feeling that we have all experienced before. –  sacohe Nov 1 '12 at 2:28
    
Thanks Girish. I like the conversation example and how you've demonstrated which way the interaction gets instigated from. –  Mark Nov 1 '12 at 10:02

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