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Actions in progress

From: Web Form Design Best Practices

Video: Actions in progress

Sometimes even when we get to the end of the form and hit the primary action, things might take a bit. That is, you may need to process some information, calculate some data or even upload a file. In these situations we want to provide feedback that actions are in progress. Here is a situation we'd like to avoid. Do not click the Submit button twice; you may actually get your credit card billed twice. Look at the amount of legal text in the second one. We run the risk of having our credit card charged. The issue here is that the burden has been put on the user, on our customer, instead of being taken on us.

Actions in progress

Sometimes even when we get to the end of the form and hit the primary action, things might take a bit. That is, you may need to process some information, calculate some data or even upload a file. In these situations we want to provide feedback that actions are in progress. Here is a situation we'd like to avoid. Do not click the Submit button twice; you may actually get your credit card billed twice. Look at the amount of legal text in the second one. We run the risk of having our credit card charged. The issue here is that the burden has been put on the user, on our customer, instead of being taken on us.

The system should instead of giving this type of message, disable the primary action so that people can't make a mistake, and then provide a little bit of feedback about what's going on. Let's see how that can actually happen. On the 37signals' site, Basecamp, we can see an example of this principle in action. When I click Post this message with an attached file you'll note the primary action turns into an animation. That is, it's letting me know that something is going on. I can no longer click that button again; therefore, I can no longer make a mistake.

Up at the top we see another animation that actually tells us why things are in progress. A file is being attached, that may take a bit to upload, okay, now I understand what's going on here. The feedback and the disabling of the Submit button actually let me know that actions are in progress. Disabling the Submit button doesn't mean hiding things from people until they're ready. So on this example of a form for getting online, how do I actually submit the form? That's right, the primary action has been removed until I click a single radio button, which then pops up this Activate link.

This isn't what I mean by disabling the Submit button. What I am talking about disabling the Submit button, I mean, letting people know that something's been in progress and that their action has been registered. Not that they need to hunt around for how to actually complete a form. While we are on the topic of streamlining actions, a very common pattern at the bottom of the form is the Agree and Submit. That is, you need to agree to a series of legal terms or privacy policies and then hit a submit button. Problem with this approach is that many times the Accept and Agree Checkbox is unchecked, because lawyers are expecting us to actually take an affirmative action indicating that we agree to that.

What happens is, people go through the form, don't see that checkmark, click Join Now, and get an error. A much easier solution at least in terms of streamlining, is to actually put in text like this. By clicking on the button below, I agree to the Terms of Service. Therefore no checkbox to miss, and there's still an affirmative action gained by clicking on the button. eBay Express has gone even further and removed the I Agree type of language, instead making the button really aligned with what people are trying to achieve. In this case they are trying to register.

So the text at top says, By clicking "Register" you agree to the privacy policy and terms of use. But there is only a single button, no checkbox. This opportunity to streamline things gets people through forms more quickly and effectively. In general, with Actions In Progress, what we want to do is provide an indication that something is going on. We don't want to put the burden on our customers by telling them, "Don't click Submit twice or we will charge you twice," that seems really unfair. Instead, we want to communicate these actions in progress by disabling Submit buttons, turning them into animations, and giving a sense of what's slowing things down.

A file is being uploaded, some data is being calculated, whatever it may be. Last but not least, while we are talking about Streamlining Actions, consider an opportunity to streamline legal requirements. This is a common area where people get tripped up in web forms and end up with errors. You can simply move things to a single action and have that action labeled, the primary thing that people are trying to complete. Purchase, Register, that'll get people through forms more quickly and on their way to the good stuff.

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Web Form Design Best Practices

30 video lessons · 12235 viewers

Luke Wroblewski
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