Converting a Printed Form to Web

My, my, my. I entered the Southwest Airlines Spirit magazine sweepstakes, but the form gave me nasty flashbacks.

You see, the form for the contest is a direct print-to-Web port of a form that came in the magazine, which means that the form includes questions that don’t make sense and that the form controls include validation and logic that are inferred, but are not present within the printed form and which cause all sorts of trouble.

Here’s the big clue that the form comes directly from a printed form: The question I plan to take this complimentary copy of Spirit magazine when I depart the airplane:

I guess I did take it, since I have it here on the Web
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That makes absolutely no sense in an online form, and if the design/development team behind it had put any sense into it whatsoever, they would have struck the question instead of just letting the form look stupid. But I guess doing things right costs too much in most cases.

The real trouble, however, comes from the required Country, City/Region, State, and Postal Code required fields. n the mail-in card, no doubt these were blank lines the user could fill in and some data entry person would interpret the scrawl. On the Internet, though, the JavaScript interprets the scrawl of a sort. Which leads to problems when the user selects a country other than the United States or Canada and then must select a US state or Canadian province (the joke in the old days would have been that the Canadian province was worth .7 of a US state; however, circumstances and currency exchange rates have sadly stripped me of the ability to use most of my Canadian humor). The whole thing causes JavaScript errors on the form:

You want the state?  You can't handle the state!
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Jeez, guys, put some effort and thought into it.

The flashback comes from a project where the client provided a more detailed survey with multiple dependent sorts of questions and just wanted it dumped onto the Web as is. I, of course, did not allow that to pass, so in the end, the form was made Web-ready by showing/hiding dependent questions and validating only the displayed questions. Users could quickly answer only the things they needed to answer, and it worked like a charm.

Of course, only a handful of people visited it and filled it out. QA filled it out more than users. Still, it’s better to make sure everything is done right so there’s no arguing about when it’s okay to do it wrong for temporary profit. Your reputation and your client’s implicit trust that everything will be done right are more important, as is your pride.

Southwest Airlines Spirit magazine needs some of its own or needs to find a dev/design team that will make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen.

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