Tip of the fortnight 10: The DOs and DON'Ts of web form validations you need to know

Tip of the fortnight 10: The DOs and DON'Ts of web form validations you need to know

Hello fellow form builders,

I'm sure you've been reading a lot of how-to articles about creating stunning forms, automating your favorite integrations, and how to reach the epitome of perfect form building. 

What if I told you there's a common pitfall that can bring down your conversions? That's right—if your responders encounter several errors as they fill out a form, they can easily grow frustrated. On the contrary, you don't want your customers to leave you with a blank form either. A solution for this can be found in field validations.

If you're already familiar with field validations inside Zoho Forms, this article will cover the DOs and the DONTs of it. If you're new to this topic, there's no need to stress—I'll pitch why you should start using them.
The DOs of field validations

Provide dynamic errors in preferred languages
Being clear while communicating errors is pretty important. In Zoho Forms, we have a list of error messages  that instantly appear when a user incorrectly fills in a field. This is shown before they even move on to the next field. Be that as it may, there may be a need to personalize these errors in a specific language based on your audience. Construct your error messages on par with language and style of your field labels.


Provide clear instructions  
It's common to neglect adding instructions. But instructions or hints are likely to improve your form's usability. Displaying instructions and the exact format of an answer when a form loads can help customers finish up the form quicker. This reduces the likelihood of errors and, ergo, improves your form's conversion rates.   

Here's a list you can keep in mind while constructing errors: 
  1. Keep the language simple and clean : Clear-cut instructions work best. Keep your audience in mind during construction and use language they'll understand.
  2. Keep jargons at bay : Avoiding jargons is your key to better communication. Sentences with jargons can cause confusion and may sometimes lead users to misunderstand the context.
  3. Keep the form's length in mind : Long sentences can go beyond the width of the field box, making your form look ugly. Try to use minimal words while delivering what has to be said.   
Mark required fields 
Getting hit with spam or unfilled submissions is the last thing you'd want for your forms. Solve this by marking a field as Mandatory, leaving the user no choice but to give an answer for that field in order to advance further with the form.

This leaves an asterisk (*) sign at the end of the mandatory field's name. It also helps users know what fields they need to enter to quickly wrap up the form. This will help them avoid frustration. You can also use it to your advantage while creating Sign up, Subscriptions, Event Registrations, and more where contact information must be captured. 

Positioning of field labels
You can structure your form by changing the form field's position based on the form you are creating. By default, the field labels are fixed on top of the input box. I will explain the effects each brings, and you can decide based on that.

  • Top : Your respondents will be able to see the field name and the label at a glance. They'll also be able to quickly move from the label and the input of the field. One disadvantage would be that it makes the form appear longer that it already is. 
  • Left : For shorter field labels, you can use this position. This does create strain for the users though, as they find it hard to match a label to its field.
  • Right : This position has less cognitive strain compared to the Left alignment as users easily know which label goes with which input box. This also serves as a good choice for shorter field labels. 
With both left and right alignments, the form size will appear smaller than the top positioned case we discussed above. One of the constraints is that when you are translating your form, the field label's length may or may not fit into the given space.   

The DON'Ts of field validation 

Ignoring sensitive data handling 
As you collect sensitive data (like social security numbers) from your respondents, you may need to perform  data encryption  to handle it securely. How is this helpful in securing the information? The data will be encrypted at your database level and will be encrypted in rest as well as transit. It will also be masked while printing or downloading. When you go to share it with others, whether through email notifications, PDFs, printing, downloading, document merge, or integrations, you will be prompted with an alert to question your decision. At this point you can decide on your actions. 

Ignoring personal data handling 
When you're collecting personal information from your customer—say an email address, phone number, bank details, etc.—in an Insurance Form, you can add an extra degree of sensitivity by marking it as Personal . Zoho Forms became GDPR compliant, allowing you to create more secure forms. It treats personal information as any information related to the directly identified/unidentified person. Similar to data encryption, you will be prompted with an alert if you go to share any personal information.  

Though field validations can be pretty easy for you to implement, they have a major impact on the user's experience. And, ultimately, aren't we always on the lookout for ways to provide an easy form-filling experience for our respondents? 

So try this out and let us know how useful you found it in the comments below—we'd love to hear from you! 

Until next fortnight, 

To get updated every fortnight on useful form tips, click follow under our community learning series.

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