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Being long time internet users I tend to fill forms barely looking at field labels, especially if it is as common and seemingly predictable as registration form. It often leads me into entering password into the field which was not intended for that. I’m guessing not the only one having this habit.

The examples below appear to me as violations of POLA principle and lead users to errors with quite serious security implications: password can be displayed somewhere in the UI, it is likely to be stored in open form, it will be as autocomplete suggestion in the browser.

form example

How to keep users from retyping their password in the field which is not intended for that?

Broader question here is how to break user expectations and habits when they are not applicable and do no good. In other words, how to violate POLA correctly?

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  1. Label the fields clearly (high contrast between font and background).
  2. Make sure that there is enough space between the fields to avoid misclicks and the likes.
  3. Ensure that labels are closest to the corresponding input field compared to any other form input
  4. Don't solely rely on inline labels as those disappear usually when you start typing.
  5. Ensure that the order of your form input fields doesn't break conventions. Rarely will users enter their passwords before choosing a username/email. For a simple login form (email/password) you should obviously put the email field above the password field.
  6. Try filling out the form with your keyboard only and make sure that pressing TAB jumps from each field to the next one correctly (no messed up order/highlighting of links that are put below or above other elements for no apparent reason).

That's all I can think of right now.

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The simple answer is you cannot stop people doing stupid things. This is what makes us human rather than a robot.

As designers, all we can do is devise as many guard rails in your design as you can, but these cannot totally eliminate all dumb behaviour - there will always be someone who will do something stupid that totally surprises you.

I doubt your system can even detect whether someone is typing their password in an inappropriate field.

I would like to think that a person will eventually recognise their password is being shown in clear text and will realise it is in the wrong field, and hopefully they will feel so embarrassed that they won't repeat that mistake again.

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Thanks for pointing out this behavior. I do it too, completing forms without examining them. This is the kind of thing that makes us want to call users stupid. Of course they're not, they're just taking shortcuts through the parts of the site that they'd rather not be in.

The obvious answer, I think, is to rearrange the fields so the password field is last. Or the password and confirm-password fields are together, and last. Like people expect them to be.

(Making the labels bigger and adding icons won't fix this.)

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I think this is a real case where a user is expecting an established design pattern (that of a username field followed immediately by a password field, or a username field, password field & confirm password field together) and is being tripped up by encountering something else. In this instance, the cost is that passwords are being typed into clear-text fields.

The best advice I can give for designers faced with this problem is don't deviate from the established pattern. Ensure that if there's a password field, it's placed immediately after a username field (or whichever field will be acting as a username) - so email in the case shown here.

Personally, I tend to treat username / password inputs as a single, atomic component, never to be separated. I'll often even separate them out from other fields and tie them to each other further by putting a border or a background around that set of fields. Then, if the user enagages their mental autopilot, they will default to doing the right thing instead of the wrong thing.

If you observe users consistently and reliably doing something other than what they should be doing, the question shouldn't be "how do I change their behaviour", it should be "how can I match their expectation".

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In addition to all these suggestions I would like to add the usage of iconography. If you or anyone of your team can make it look appropriate it will present more clarity to the user.

You can also consider of making the Password field as the last item.

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