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Editors’ Note: A Fascination with Forms

A few years ago, when we needed a book on usable forms to recommend to a client, there was little available. Now there are several, two of which (one our own) are reviewed in this issue. In the course of researching our book, we came across Robert Barnett, the distinguished Australian leader in the world of forms and the author of several books and papers. His recently revised Forms for People is a must-read for anyone working on complex forms or spanning the worlds of electronic and paper forms. We believe this is a sign that a neglected topic is now being given the attention it is due. After all, forms are the point at which users so often give up; the business end of the relationship that organizations try to foster with their customers.

In many ways, a form is the organization writ small. Within the form we can see whether the organization cares about, understands, and values its customers. We can see whether it is dominated by marketing, burdened by legalism, or intent on quality.

Improving a form is not about making a momentary interaction better. Often, it’s about making deep-seated changes. Sometimes, it’s about acknowledging imperfections and working around them. Frequently, it’s challenging and, at times, surprisingly difficult.

The form is firmly embedded in the customer interaction. It can help open doors and create lasting relationships, or it can do the opposite.
We’re delighted that so many have contributed to this special edition; we hope that it helps readers re-think the importance of good forms design, and that it proves useful, practical, and even, dare we hope, fascinating