tips and tricks

Getting the order right for the form fields in your online form

Getting the order right for the form fields in your online form

When creating online forms, it’s important to make sure you get the order right for your form elements. Form elements that are properly organised into appropriate groups are critical for ensuring a positive user experience, as they make the form easier to fill out for users while reducing completion time. And a well-designed form doesn’t just improve the experience for users – it also offers advantages for the person needing the data. A logical order ensures that more users submit the form and will also improve the quality of the form data collected.

First impressions count: layout, structure and design

When a user accesses your form, it’s important to make a good first impression. The form must not seem overwhelming but should make sense and be easy to complete from the outset. Remember that most people don’t actually enjoy filling out forms. So the layout, structure and design will all play a decisive role here. A well-designed form should look appealing and make it easy for users to get started with it. In the following sections, we explain the best ways to achieve this.

Group your form elements into topic blocks

To identify the right order for your form elements, start off by noting down some topic blocks. Think about which kinds of information belong together and how they could be organised into topics. Let’s take an insurance claim as an example here. The topics involved are as follows: data about the product purchased, personal details from the claimant and information about the defect. Let’s apply these topics blocks to the form. So, you would first ask the user for information about the product, then for their personal details and so on.Make sure that the individual areas are clearly distinguished and the information properly structured. You can use headings, subheadings, text and images to do this.

Go from general to specific and don’t overwhelm your users

To ensure a pleasant user experience, you should organise both your form fields and your topic blocks so they go from general to specific, and avoid too much detail at first. Your approach to form design should follow the same strategy you’d take when talking to someone you don’t know at a conference. First, you’d introduce yourself politely and chat about the presentations you’d attended. You’d move on to discuss any other talks still to come on the programme. Following this, you’d talk about your professional lives, starting with more general topics and then, as the conversation continued, mentioning the specific things and challenges you experience every day. So you’d never just simply accost a stranger and ask them straight off the bat: “Is it true that you have to work so much overtime at your company?” If you did, the other person would probably look confused and also think you were plain rude. And the conversation would also be over even before it started – and without you getting the information you wanted. We use this example to make the point that starting things off slowly is much more agreeable for the person you’re engaging with. And it’s the same with forms: always start off with general questions or fields for collecting general information. You can then become slowly more specific and more direct. Don’t include personal questions until you’ve established a rapport. Users become more likely to provide you with the information that you’re looking for as they get more and more ‘invested’ in the form. On the other hand, you should only ever ask for the information that you actually need. Don’t include a question about date of birth, for example, just because it seems right for a specific topic block. Asking for information that’s not relevant may well scare your users off. Even if it doesn’t, it makes the form longer for no reason.

If you are going to be asking your users for information that they may well not have readily to hand, you should let them know this at the start of the form. This means you can be sure that users will know about the kinds of documents they will need before they can finish submitting the form. If you don’t do this, your users could well end up on the last page of the form only to find out that they don’t actually have their last payslip to hand, for example, and so they just give up in frustration.

Be consistent

If you have topic blocks that are similar to one another, like a shipping address and an invoice address, then stay consistent within these blocks. Don’t change the order of your form elements here. The same applies to options for answers like ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. If you start messing around with the order, this can easily lead to data entry errors.

Follow applicable standards

You should observe the standards that apply to some kinds of information, such as credit card numbers. Make sure that your form fields follow the same order used for the data printed on the card. Don’t use a different order just to be ‘creative’. Failing to follow standards here can quickly lead to mistakes and frustration on the part of your users.


Localisation is a subject all to itself. The order for form fields may well vary depending on the country. Let’s take the address field as an example. In Germany, for example, the street is stated first and then the house number. But in the United Kingdom, the house number comes first and then the street name. Some countries may have extra address fields that are not used in others, and so on. Accordingly, you should always check local practice when deciding on an order.

Talk to your form users

While we’ve now given you a few tips on how to organise your form elements, there is of course no one ‘right’ order to use. Several approaches may be possible, depending on context. In one online form, it might be more appropriate to ask for information at the start, while another might work better if this is done at the end. To identify the right way to do things, it’s important that you talk to your form users and get to know your target audience. Find out what they think and get their opinion on the subject. Remember that there will be differences between how you see things and how they do as your users. While you might handle lots of damage assessments for burglaries every day, for example, filling out this form will be a rare occurrence for the person making the claim. They might not know what kinds of information they need to provide and the situation itself is stressful. With a well-structured form, you can make sure that the process goes as smoothly as possible for your form users.


Getting the order right for the form fields in your form is crucial for ensuring a good user experience. By organising your fields into a logical order, you can make it easier for your users to fill out the form while reducing the completion time and improving the quality of the data collected. Group your form fields into topic blocks, order them from general to specific, stay consistent, and follow standards as well as local practice in your user’s country. And, above all: talk to your form users with the aim of better understanding their needs and viewpoints. If you do all of this, you can create a self-explanatory form that has great usability.

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