When the user creates something, let's say a page, an user profile or even a blog post, we can easily imagine a transitory page with a form that requires input. Some fields of can be mandatory and some will be optional, but the user in the worst case has to process a lot of information before getting straight to the point.

What if the user will create an element and then, maybe with the use of in-line editing, add some information here and there. In case of a profile page, the user will be able to put a picture, a description and some notes in an unstructured way, whenever it's convenient. I can imagine that some fields could be auto-generated, to avoid in example duplicate entries.

So, can we completely avoid the use of a form in some cases and let the user get straight in-to the action?

  • 2
    How is what you are describing different from a (pretty) form?
    – Odalrick
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 10:35
  • A form will ask you all the info in the moment of filling it. The "inline-interface" will allow you to add here and there some information as soon as it's convenient for the user
    – Rdpi
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 10:41
  • 2
    Are you talking about wizards? Because, to me, it still seems like you're describing every form, everywhere since always. Forms allow you to fill in stuff in any order you find easiest and when everything required is filled in, you submit it. Maybe you're talking about making an effort to not make a lot of stuff mandatory?
    – Odalrick
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 10:58
  • What is the purpose of avoiding a form? Forms have meaning that users already understand (fill in content, send to server, ???, profit).
    – cimmanon
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 14:58

3 Answers 3


For sure ! And you should do it.

Always remember that the user is here to do something and your job is helping her to succeed pleasantly in her task. Fulfilling forms is usually not something a user wants or likes to do.

When creating a new element, the system should ask the user only the minimum required, usually the name of the element. I does not have to be in a form but a modal window with a sing input can help the user to focus.

For instance in Basecamp, only the name of the project and the users are required, no due dates, no first conversation, no file needed. Once the project is created the user can add more information.


Even simpler

VK only asks for the Facebook connection, nothing more (that is to say, no mail, no first post, no friends). The experience starts... now.


Caution: Blank slate

Some additional reading about blank slate, a situation you might be confronted to.

Ignoring the blank slate stage is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. The blank slate is your app's first impression and you never get a second...


  • Thank you Gildas. Do you have the possibility to link me to an example of this approach?
    – Rdpi
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 10:45
  • There are also webapps that do not require login in, but I cannot remember one right now. Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 12:41

An example which is close to your thoughts. In-line editing or direct action pattern become more popular now for the reason you've pointed:

let the user get straight into the action

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  • Seems to be a fair amount of progress in this area - the popular #CMS #Drupal is looking to include an in-place editor - drupal.org/project/spark
    – Whitingx
    Commented Sep 20, 2013 at 12:12

For sure ! And you should do it #2.

Upvote for Gildas and I am going to build off of his answer...

Editing a "page" using the traditional form tends takes the user out of the context of the page they are editing and in the lowest usability cases, has a completely different layout from the content that the person is editing.

What you are looking for is a the UI pattern known as... contextual interaction.. or "Stay on the Page" as described in Designing Web Interfaces. http://shop.oreilly.com/product/9780596516253.do

There is a huge improvement in the users' understanding of their intentions, actions and consequences by desgining editing features this way.

A good example is a similar task tracking app called asana.com

They apply this style of editing for their editable fields. They have recently updated the UI to look a little more "formlike" when editing fields. It's original incarnation was so subtle it was hard to know you could edit anything.

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