When Your Cool UI Conflicts With Business Goals

Have you seen cool forms that look like this?

They’re often called natural language forms or conversation forms. From a visual perspective, they look awesome. I’ve been incorporating them into a few side projects, up until a couple of days ago.

One of my sites was using a conversation form as a user signup. The form was hacked together to send me an email when a new user has signed up. Immediately, I noticed I was receiving a lot of blank form submissions. Maybe two or three blank submissions, then followed by a completed form submission. Two days ago, I received 20 blank form submissions in a row, and then an email from a user, stating that the form was broken.

Being clueless, I went to the site and submitted a form with success. I emailed them back and told them the form was functional and they should try again. I then received another 10 blank form submissions, followed by a reply saying that the form was still broken. This time they supplied additional information, that they keep pushing the ‘Sign up’  button, but the button doesn’t take them anywhere to sign up. Instead, they were just getting a ‘Thank you’ banner message.

Okay, okay, okay. First, shame on me for not adding any validation to the form. However, the point is that for many users of the site, it was not obvious that the form was the sign up form.

When creating web sites and applications, each page will normally have a goal, and the page should be designed to achieve that goal. In this case, the single page was designed for users to sign up for the service, but many had problems doing so, due to the unusual look of the form. What I thought was cool and slick was an obstacle for user. I’ve reverted to using standard inputs (borders on all sides of the input box) for the form; since many people expect sign up forms to appear this way.

The UI patterns we see on the web change often. Maybe within the next year, users may become more familiar with conversation forms. But today its just an obstacle.

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About Hadiyah

Software Engineer, Entrepreneur, and Startup Aficionado. I co-founded a student venture firm for students at historically black colleges, HBCUvc, software development agency, Playpen Labs, and Black Founders nonprofit.