Take any new interface design or display technology, and chances are that someone somewhere has already compared it to Minority Report. The 2002 dystopian film, with its see-through screens and gesture-driven interfaces, is remembered more for its futuristic tech than for the insidiousness of the technology — pre-crime prediction — that was its actual focus. It continues to be the standard by which we judge new interfaces.
But inspiration doesn’t only come in the form of flashy, futuristic interfaces. At Typeform, we were inspired to simplify online forms by a movie that’s decidedly a blast from the past: the 1983 film WarGames, which centers around a student who remotely logs into a research computer and, through its terminal interface, nearly sparks a nuclear war. Its computers are hardly state of the art, yet the computers’ question-driven interface inspired us to reinvent forms.
Instead of a list of questions, how much better would it be if forms presented one easy-to-answer question at a time? Stripping forms down to their basics and building them back up into something better took four years of work, but that core idea guided us all along: questions are better than lists. Here’s the story of our crazy idea to reimagine how forms could work, and how we turned that idea into a product that’s helped companies of all sizes get a 55% completion rate on their forms. You’ve filled out plenty of online forms, from the standard surveys that you get in emails to checkout forms and more.
Forms have been with us since the earliest days of the Internet, and they largely look the same today as they did in the ’90s. They’re filled with lists of questions and tiny bullet points that are hard enough to fill out on a PC and are an exercise in extreme frustration on mobile. Forms have turned into one of the most annoying things about the Internet, right along with popup ads and auto-playing audio. They’re a necessary evil — no one would say that they love filling out forms, but we all have to fill them out anyway. Simplifying forms, though, took more than just inspiration. It took us on a four-year journey, starting with a showroom Flash application for a client in 2010.
That application was built to run full-screen on large monitors at an exhibition, complete with video, animations and a way to collect information from visitors to the booth in a modern (for the time), interactive experience. A typical Web form would have been impossible to use on such a large screen and would have looked terrible alongside the other elements. We quickly saw that it was time to reinvent the form.