Bad UX: Discarding Form Data

I promise I will add examples of good UX in the near future. But first, I want to address one of my biggest pet peeves online…

JobSite’s login form is guilty of a particular crime that several other web sites’ forms are guilty of. Basically, if you try to sign in to the site and just happen to get your email address or password wrong:

You’ve guessed it: both fields are empty when you’re told so. It makes sense for the password field, but my complaint is with the other, plain-text fields – in this case, the email address field.

Why is this a problem?

First of all, JobSite’s login form comes populated with your email address (if you’re a member already, or you accessed the site from a link in one of their newsletters), so it makes no sense to “forget” it if you get your password wrong.

Second, because the email address field is empty, a lot of time is wasted filling in the email address again. Worse still, the clearing of the field suggests that the email address was wrong – so a lot of time could be wasted in trying to guess the correct email address. Usually the problem is simply a small typo.
The only quick option then is to request a new password (or if security was an afterthought, retrieve the actual password) by guessing which email address was used to register.

Believe it or not, this doesn’t just happen with poorly conceived and poorly implemented login forms. I’ve seen the same thing happen with registration forms on various web sites (most of them fly-by-night), where one small omission will present you with a completely emptied form – meaning you’ll have to type in every single bit of information over. Unfortunately I can’t provide any examples off the top of my head.

The moral of the story: if you don’t want your web developers hunted down in cold blood, please think about how you implement your forms. If there’s an error with the data the user is submitting, try to keep as much of that information available the next time.

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