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Do most users find filling out a form to be less frustrating when form chunks are separated into pages (essentially tab navigation), or do they find that annoying and prefer it to be one long scrollable form?

In both cases, I'm assuming that there is a navigation notifier:

Cases:

  1. Scrollspy
  2. Using typical tab-like notation to indicate which step # the user is on

Now, in a different scenario, when reading articles, I HATE when there are multiple pages, I just want the whole thing to be on one page and use a scrollspy approach. This makes me feel somewhat biased.

But filling out a web form is a totally different case, and some people may prefer to not have the old fully filled out info obscuring their page, maybe something about it being on a prior "page" makes it feel like they've truly accomplished that part and helps them enjoy the process more.

Please let me know what you think, I'm very torn between which is more user-friendly.

5

This PDF has some good tips for form design.

This article mentions some opinions about this specific question.

Previous question and another previous question.

I also dislike pagination on a long news article, but that's because I'm trying to consume the content & it slows me down. When you want people to produce the content for a form you want to give the appearance of speed/progress. Using shorter forms (and auto-filling data where possible) helps with this.

Scrolling isn't necessarily bad, but if you have a 100-question form it may be intimidating & unpleasant, so the step-by-step "wizard" pattern can be a more approachable alternative.

Consider how you might break the form up into relevant sub-sections that can be completed in discrete steps. Don't break it up randomly (for example, arbitrary sets of 5), but only where it makes sense to do so. This approach lets you show people their progress/completion as they go (yay! a goal! I made it!), and make sure they know how much is left.

Breaking things up can also help w/form validation. Ideally you'd be checking inputs as they're made so errors are caught immediately. But if not, it's less frustrating to find/fix errors on a shorter form than on a long one.

  • +1 especially the form validation. Imagine having to scroll through meters of form to find the one checkbox you didn't check. Or worse, two checkboxes in different places! – Tim FitzGerald Sep 26 '14 at 1:53
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I recommend the shorter form option. Once I submitted a very long form, the server accepting it timed out and I got a nice error page. Pressing browser back button returned an empty form for me to fill everything all over again!

In a client server application:-

Breaking down into simple forms also lets you save it in the server every step of the way.

Moreover, if filling out the fields require you to do additional steps such as calculate some numbers, having it broken down into categories helps. Ex: Online Tax filing software.

  • If the server timed out, it's an application programming issue and not a user experience issue. – Karan Shah Feb 20 '17 at 3:36

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