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Are forms as simple as possible and only ask what’s needed to complete the task?

  • Mateo is in a hurry to fill out a medical insurance form.
  • Janet has dementia. Janet needs to validate identification to request a new social security card.

Steps to take

  1. Read the Australian Government Style Manual on designing digital forms and Vision Australia's 5 simple tips for designing accessible web forms.
  2. Follow our form standards and data dictionary as an ongoing point of reference.
  3. Step out forms or content into multiple steps. This is so that users are not immediately overwhelmed.
  4. Present fields in a single-column layout. This keeps visual momentum moving down the page so users don’t have to reorient themselves with multiple columns. Exceptions to this rule are short, logical fields that may be presented on the same row like state and post code.
  5. Ensure form fields are visibly labelled. Provide instructions or label which form fields are mandatory or optional.
  6. Don't use placeholder text in form fields. Placeholder text causes usability issues because it disappears when content is entered into the form field. Hints and instructions should be persistent and placed outside of the field.
  7. Use clear labels and instructions on forms. Labels must clearly describe what each part of the form does. Provide additional instructions even for form fields that may seem obvious to you.
  8. Make sure questions or labels cannot be confused to mean something else. This can especially help people with autism or people with lower literacy skills/English as a second language.
  9. Provide highly visible and specific error states. Use multiple cues like colour, icons, bold font weight, heavy border or outline, and helpful text to make sure users don’t overlook this critical information.
  10. For large forms, provide the ability to for the user to save their progress and come back to the form.
  11. Some people take longer to complete a form than others. If a form has a time limit, provide an option to extend the timer when the time limit is about to expire.
  12. Make sure form fields have clearly defined boundaries or outlines so that people with cognitive disability know the size and location of the click target.
  13. For content that spans multiple pages, provide progress indicators. This is so everyone users understand how far through the process they are.

Supporting resources

Page last updated: 17 June 2021