With all the new innovations happening in the Web every day, it’s easy to just block it out of your mind and stick to what you know. I recently came across a discussion with Luke Wroblewski discussing innovations in web input. It’s pretty slow moving, but there are a few gems.

Three Areas of Input

  • Rich interactions with input
  • Input can come from anywhere
  • Leverage already inputted information

Rich Interactions with Input

An example Luke discussed for this is Google’s Instant Search. A visitor is inputting information and getting real-time results that appear almost magically as they type. This helps the visitor feel like they are really engaged with the page.

Since websites are constantly upping the ante with new ways that visitors can input and interact with information, a standard “type and submit” form may end up turning off visitors who have come to expect a rich experience from their past dealings with Facebook and Twitter.

Another way this could be used would be to help someone searching for a product from your shopping cart get real-time, relevant results as they type in something. They may not know exactly what they are looking for, but if they are getting back a listing of products with pictures and a brief description as they type, they can better narrow their search when those results help them realize what they are looking for.

Input Can Come From Anywhere

This concept is not often considered. The idea is that a visitor to your site will spend much more time away from your site than on it, even if they are a high-trafficed site like Facebook. So, to better interact with your visitors in ways that they feel comfortable, your site should be open to input that can come from anywhere.

For instance, if you run an article directory, a fair number of your users will be 40+. This demographic tends to use E-mail far more than spending their day using web forms. So, why not be able to take E-mail submissions that go right into the queue of articles?

Leverage Already Inputted Information

This point is something that we all think about on a regular basis when signing up for websites, but oddly enough – is not often remembered when launching your own sites.

Having to enter redundant information is a pain, and often can lead to a lower conversion rate and greater bounce rate. Anytime a visitor has to go hunting information or spend more time typing something in, the greater the probability of them giving up and leaving.

The example that Luke used was Apple’s Ping Social Network for iTunes.

I liked how he described it. He said that Apple’s customers that buy their computers have a great unpacking experience. The whole process from the time they open the box through turning on the computer, loading their personalized profile, etc. is carefully thought out to be as user-friendly as possible.

He contrasted this to Apple’s new Ping Social Network. It’s ignorant of information the user already has on iTunes, requires you to wait while Apple approves your profile photo (He’s been waiting two weeks), restricts your name to what’s on your credit card, requires you to go through Apple’s Store to choose which songs you like rather than grabbing the list from your iTunes account, etc.

Apple already has a lot of the information that Ping wants you to enter, but they don’t grab it from places that you already are storing it.

This same concept can be applied to any website. You can use GEO location data when someone’s filling out a form, grab their name, address, phone number, picture, etc. from their Facebook account, etc. There’s a lot of opportunities out there to apply this concept, but not many websites embrace this concept.

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