First impressions are everything. For many, the intake form is the first step of an athlete’s journey with a coach. No matter how you create the intake form (pdf, word doc, or online survey), using the following design best practices will create a more enjoyable experience for your athletes. Proper design practices help elevate the design of the form, and positively impact those first initial impressions of your coaching business.
Use a single-column layout
If you arrange form fields into multiple columns, the athlete must scan in a Z pattern (Figure 1). This slows the speed of understanding and requires the user to reorient themselves. By using a single column (Figure 2), there is a continuous flow down the form that allows the user to easily move from question to question.
Figure 1: Don’t – Using two columns forces the reader to read in a Z pattern slowing the reading flow.
Figure 2: Do – Put questions in a single column. This creates a logical progression down the page.
The single-column layout also applies to checkboxes and radio button questions. The athlete is able to easily scan down the list of options when shown in a column (Figure 4) compared to a list that is set horizontally (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Don’t – Placing checkboxes in a horizontal set line is harder to scan and read.
Figure 4: Do – A vertically stacked list is easier to scan.
Avoid using all caps
Using all capitalized letters can be harder to read and scan (Figure 5). Use sentence case whenever possible. (Figure 6)
Figure 5: Don’t – Avoid using all caps for form titles and questions.
Figure 6: Do – Using sentence case is easier and faster to read.
Use the correct field size
Text fields should be roughly the length of the expected answer. If you are asking your athlete for a US zip code, use a text field or line that fits the 6 digits (Figure 8). This provides the athlete with some guidance to how long and what the answer should be.
Figure 7: Don’t – Using an input field that is too long doesn’t give the user an idea of how long the answer should be.
Figure 8: Do – Use an input field that is the size of the appropriate answer.
Avoid using a dropdown for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers
If you have a question that requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, use radio buttons (Figure 10). A dropdown menu requires two clicks and hides the available options (Figure 9). Using a dropdown menu for just two answer options can slow the athlete down and isn’t as easy to scan.
Figure 9: Don’t – Dropdowns for questions with just two answer options slows the user down because it requires additional clicks and it’s harder to scan.
Figure 10: Do – Use radio buttons for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers
Figure 11: Do – Use a dropdown menu when you have 5-10 answer options and the athlete can only select one option.
Dropdown menus have their time and place. If you have a question that has 5-15 answer options and the athlete can select only one value from the list as their answer, you can consider using a dropdown menu (Figure 11).
Group Related Information
Intake forms are long and can seem overwhelming to athletes. Compare the two intake forms below: In Figure 12, a form that is a list of questions with no order of grouping. In Figure 13, a form that uses headers to indicate the start and end of a group and chunks the content based on information type. Notice how much easier it is to scan and understand the progression of questions by grouping them appropriately.
Figure 12: Don’t – The form does not group similar information and does not use headers to break up content.
Figure 13: Do – The form uses headers and groups similar information making it easier to scan.
Grouping information can also make a long list of questions seem less daunting. In Figure 12, the athlete sees a large block of 10 questions to complete. When you group the information using headers, the athlete sees three small sections that seem more attainable.
Also, keeping similar information grouped provides context for what questions will come next, allowing athletes to complete an intake form faster. For example, having a section for Personal Information with name and age, and having a section for Training History with sport type and current activity level (Figure 13).
We all want to make a great first impression. By making small design tweaks to your intake form’s organization, layout, and sizing, your athletes will not look at your form as a daunting task, but a simple and easy next step to meet their athletic pursuits.
To make your job easier, here is a link to the form screenshotted in the article. Please be sure to first make a copy of the form before you start using it for your business, as this is just a template that many other coaches will use.
Nielsen Norman Group. (2016). Website Forms Usability: Top 10 Recommendations. Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/web-form-design/
Nielsen Norman Group. (2016). Listboxes vs. Dropdown Lists. Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/listbox-dropdown/