Stress-free Forms

One of the things I struggled with while using Web sites to see if they were worth a nomination was forms. Some refuse to work with the tabs. Others required data to be entered just so. For instance, phone numbers: you enter 555-555-5555, but no, it wants (555)555-5555 not (555) 555-5555 or (555) 5555555 or anything of that. It MUST be parenthesis around the area code, no space between numbers, and a dash between the NXX and last four digits. Still others required too much work to complete.
Then there are forms that go blank when you “go back” or miss something and it sends you back. You have to keep filling it all over again until you get it right and it’s not your fault because the precise instructions aren’t anywhere to be found or the form is cluttered.
Simple Tricks for More Usable Forms provides how to make the cursor appear in the first box, adding labels to enhance usability, putting focus on the current field, and validating the form. [ Originally posted in InformIT ]