Placeholders in Form Fields are Harmful

Let’s talk about forms there. One of the most important tools that you can have to connect with your customers and your users, whether it’s for generating leads or maintaining an ongoing relationship.

There are so many tips for form design. I can’t possibly include them all in one video. But I will tell you about one really important tip that can make a big difference, and that is placeholder text. Don’t put anything in the text entry box. Don’t do it. Stop doing it if you’re doing it right now. And what I mean by placeholder text, you’ve all seen it. It’s, for example, say we have a form field asking for your username. And inside the little box, the word username appears. This seems harmless, but what can actually happen is a user goes to click onto that field, they start to type and poof, that text username is gone. Now, what if the user doesn’t remember what they were just asked to type in? They might think, wait, wait, wait. Was I supposed to type in my username or my email address? I’m not sure. So now the user has to then click outside of that field to wait for that placeholder text to magically appear again. This is extra effort, OK?

This is a burden on the users, because now they have to do some extra clicking in order to just simply type in their username or their email address. Another issue with placeholder text is that a lot of times it’s low contrast and that low contrast can actually make it really difficult for users to see and to read easily. One other issue that we see with placeholder text is sometimes it gives the false impression that it’s not actually a form field that’s empty, that’s meant to be typed in because users see a box with text in it and they think, OK, that there’s already text in there, I don’t have to type in there. So they might skip a field. Actually, they do need to type in to instead of all of this, save your users the trouble. Take that placeholder text out of the box and put it outside so that it is visible by default at all times. That way, when a user gets to that page, they can clearly see an empty text box. They know that that’s actionable and that’s where they can start typing. They can see the label easily. And if you have any hint text, any extra tips, for example, password requirements or formatting for a phone number, put that outside the box. Two forms are such an important opportunity to connect with your customers, create new business leads that you don’t want to risk, bad design choices, turning people away. So please, if you do this one simple thing, take that placeholder text out of the text entry field, make it visible at all times. It’ll be better for users and better for your business.

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