Luke Wroblewski‘s book Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks was brought to my attention when I stumbled upon his website devoted to the art of web form design, Functioning Form. Web Form Design is one of the first books to come from Rosenfeld Media, a publishing company devoted to producing books and materials about web design and user experience design. I did not know what to expect, but after reading the book cover to cover I learned it is truly an excellent book, destined to be a classic.
Excellent book design
I was impressed by the design of Web Form Design itself:
- The text and images are both quite readable, which is a feat considering almost all the images in the book are screenshots of web forms with their own text.
- Each chapter begins with a cover page with its own table of contents and a hybrid line chart depicting the breadth and position of the chapter compared to the rest of the book.
- The cover has a matte finish and thickness that make a good impression.
The one thing I did not like about the design was the sidebars’ tendency to use type a little too small, measures a little too long and leading a little too wide. The rest of the text was a little small for weak eyes but adequate for most readers.
Web Form Design, like other Rosenfeld books, also offers digital content for readers. All images in the book are available at Flickr. Buyers also get a digital PDF of the book, optimized for screen reading with larger type and an altered layout. I’ve seen books with chapters available online, but I can’t recall one that considered how they would be read and redesigned the pages accordingly. The one deficiency is that the PDF isn’t optimized for print, and that’s understandable given the printed book is available—but publisher Louis Rosenfeld actually plans to produce print-optimized PDFs in the future. This judiciousness makes Web Form Design an enjoyable reading experience.
Luke is good too
Luke Wroblewski seems to be in a perfect position to write this book: he’s developed forms and designs for eBay, Yahoo! and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, where the first major Web browser was developed (NCSA Mosaic). His expertise came through in this book without sounding preachy: I was pleased all of Luke’s recommendations were backed up with empirical evidence such as eyetracking and usability testing, and he thoroughly tested many elements of form design, such as layout and alignment.
The material is also comprehensive, covering everything from form planning to designing the form page itself, error and success pages, tabs, information architecture and more. I was also happy to see a list of best practices at the end of every chapter, making Web Form Design something of a handbook for designers producing web forms. Designers who deal with forms regularly will refer to this book often.
The books I consider to be among the best often cover a niche subject not well-covered in the industry and give it the attention it deserves. Designing online forms is one of those subjects, and the fact that this book stands at 225 pages and doesn’t feel too long or short says much about its smart, thorough coverage. Luke is not widely published and Rosenfeld has not published many books yet, but that only means Web Form Design is like a diamond in the rough. I’m really looking forward to seeing what these two produce in the future.