This post is part of a series on building forms in mobile apps.

Successful mobile app development is, to large extent, understanding the constraints of Time and Space to build a good user-experience. In today’s post, I talk about the former. What are the little or big things you can take care of in your mobile app forms, that will save the user’s time?  Let’s take a gander:


My app, My keypad!

Learn the Tab lesson from the desktop. Use it on the mobile. No, we don’t have a tab by default on the keypad but we can program mobile touchscreen keypads – something we can’t do with the hardware keyboard of the desktop machine!

Program the buttons on your mobile app keypads to make life easier for the user. Instead of the Return button, put a Next button that directly shifts focus to the next input field.  Or call it Done / Submit / Search – anything you wish – as you see, the Submit action can be performed right from the keypad itself!  You can basically program the Return button to call any function in your code! These kind of little things help increase the quickness of filling up a form.

Resetting forms

Depending on the kind of form your app has, you can choose to have a Master Reset function which either empties all the form fields or brings the fields back to their default states. The action could be achieved with either an explicit Reset button or simply a Cancel button that takes the user away from the form to the previous screen. Use Reset with discretion.  Reset is important in cases like Search forms, where a user might want to start a whole new search with all-new search parameters. Not a must-have for we-mean-serious-business forms like say, sign-up since most of the inputs would be interlinked and would have been given with some thought (if not, the painful task of doing a field-by-field erase is a lesson learnt for the user!). And needless to say, forms that carry sensitive information, should be auto-reset after submission.

Note that the Reset action is not a primary action on your form screen (the Submit is), so don’t make it that so prominent and catchy that users end up resetting the form each time they intend to submit!

Field-level resets are another aid to the user while filling a form and these are widely used in mobile apps. Help the user save time by having an inline ‘x ‘ button in text fields to help them quickly and easily clear a text field, instead of having to do multiple backspaces.  Take care to display the x button only if some text is keyed in. In mobility, your app’s ‘presence of mind’ is critical for good UX and this is just one of the many examples of the same.

Retain vs.  Reset

Web apps have caching provisions that are well-supported by the browser but for native apps, you will have to make sure your code retains inputs in fields (after form submission or screen exit) if you feel that will help the user the next time round. This is very subjective and depends on the kind of business scenario you form is trying to address.  Alternatively, you can have the good old ‘Remember me’ kind of checkbox if it is personal information the user is keying in.

Take for granted that which is obvious!

The mobile app user needs things to happen quick.  In conventional forms, we are accustomed to having the user provide an input and then click a Save or Submit button. But unless it is critical information, we don’t always need the Confirm or Submit button. The user completing the input should be enough to auto-save it or treat it as submitted.  Look at the iPhone Settings section as an example. You can turn toggles ON or OFF, you can tick the boxes you want or enter passcodes – and for all of these, the input is saved the instant you finish the action of providing it. No separate buttons to Save or Submit the changes – simply not needed here!

So we’ve seen in this and some of the previous posts, how we can lessen the time needed for form-filling, by designing the form to be intelligent, quick and user-friendly. In the next article in this series, we will talk about how to deal with the constraints of space in mobile app forms. Stay tuned!

What type of app fits your mobility appetite?

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