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Let me preface by saying that yes, I intend on doing usability testing with actual users.

I am redesigning the UI for my company's product. On a particular form, the layout is currently:

CurrentLayout

However, research tells us (research conducted by other UX research firms, not research I've done for our specific users) that this is better layout:

BetterLayout

But, I'm wondering that if the options for answers are all the same, and users become familiar with this form, if maybe it is more efficient for No, Yes, etc, to be in columns like in the current layout.

Do any other UXers out there have any experience with similar issues or any constructive thoughts?

Thanks!

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Labels above the checkboxes make it quicker to scan, but there's no reason you couldn't list the options in columns below the labels since the answers are all so short:

Labels above, answers in columns

Another thing to consider is that the existing layout makes it very quick to repeat the same answer for a section. If the users know the form very well they can (currently) just quickly fill down a column. This can either be a positive (speed) or a negative (possibly skipping over questions that they should consider fully).

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Summary: use single column layout and break the long form into separate screens.

In your current layout, there are two competing structures:

  • Dence and narrow questions form visual group (due to Gestalt principle of proximity), which is perceived as separate column and tend to be read from top to down, see the blue area
  • While actual flow is left-to-right, see the red arrows

So user need to make efforts both for horizontal jumping from a question to answers (both with eyes and mouse), and struggling with vertical column pattern.

enter image description here

Second approach requires less efforts, and more efficient. But the bad side is form TOO long. Users can cancel filling it (too much mental efforts, too exhausting), this could affect completion rate.

So it's better to break the long form into separated screens. Users have time to rest between form filling, and you reduce form's complexity with perceived simplicity.

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