When the labels and inputs on your form are not enough to tell the user what they need to enter, help text can come to the rescue. Help text is simply the process of including additional textual instructions on your form.
But beware, if you find that you need a ton of help text on your form, then your input labels are not clear, or you may asking the wrong questions. Help text is a double-edged sword: it requires careful implementation.
Too Much Help Text
People want to just jump right in and start filling out a form. They typically skip the instructional text altogether.
That’s why relying on an excessive amount of help text can lead to problems. Help text shown above and below fields, scattered throughout your form can also make the form look more complicated than it really easy.
There are some cases however, where inline help text should be used:
- To address user’s privacy and security concerns
- To inform the user why a particular piece of information is being asked for (e.g Why we need your date of birth)
- When forms ask for unfamiliar data
User-Activated Help Text
User-activated Help Text is the process of showing help text only when requested by the user. Typically a question mark icon will be shown. When the user rolls their mouse over it, the help text for that field will appear.
This is one of the best methods of providing help. Your form remains clean and uncluttered and help text is only shown at the user’s request. The help text should be shown in a pop-up, so that the form fields don’t shift as help text is displayed.
It’s also a good idea to add a delay of about 500 milliseconds to ensure the help text is not shown by an accidental rollover. Of course, when you use Logiforms, all of these best practices are automatically implemented for you.
Place Holder Help Text
Place Holder Help Text is a method of providing hints inside of a form field. Typically these will be hints on what is expected in the field and/or in what format that data is expected to be in. This is a great option and can be used in conjunction with the other help text methods.
One of the key benefits to this method is that the help text is visible right away. Therefore, it reassures your users that help is available.
When implementing place holder help text, you should:
- Ensure the help text disappears when the user clicks in the field.
- Remember that the help text is NOT visible as the user enters data. If the user may need to reference the help text as they type, use inline help text instead.
- The place holder help text should be visually different from the user input. Typically it’s presented in a light gray color.
The proper use of help text can go a long way to increasing the usability of your forms. By the same token, too much inline help text or a poor implementation can actually have the adverse affect.
Using Logiforms built in tool-tip feature (User Activated Inline Help), you can easily adhere to help text best practices.