How Typeform re-invented online forms

Categories Articles
On the 12th of February, Typeform launched version 1.0 and left beta. Since then, we’ve been bowled over by the response and feedback we’ve had from our customers. But this was no overnight success. This is a story that started back in the heady days of 2010.

It all started with posh toilets

Back in 2010, Robert Muñoz and I were two friends with separate web UI/UX agencies which we ran from a shared space in Barcelona, Spain: Fat-Man Collective and Pulpolab.

Robert had at the time a client called Roca. They design and fit posh bathrooms and were looking for a unique solution for an exhibition. The brief: build a contact form that would stand out on an exhibition floor, and look great when presented on the large display of an iMac.

Robert got me and my team on board, and we set to work.

No normal form would do, and inspiration would come from an unlikely source.

“Shall we play a game?”

Have you seen the film “WarGames”? If you haven’t, watch this clip. If you have, you’ll remember a scene where David, played by Matthew Broderick, gains access to the computer of Dr. Stephen Falken and the computer asks David a series of questions.

It was whilst researching sources for how to design a new form experience that we remembered this scene. If you look at the interaction with the computer screen in that clip, you’ll see two very important things which form the backbone of the typeform concept:

  • The computer is asking David questions in conversation form
  • There is no input box for the answer, just a cursor

Being that it was 2010, we set about creating a solution in the prevalent technology of the time: Flash. A concept was born, in the form of QuickyForm.

QuickyForm displayed one question at a time, just like in human conversation. It presented the question clearly, and the user just had to type to enter their answer. Simple.

You can play with a prototype of QuickyForm for yourself. It’s an early version, so it’s a little broken and incomplete. You need to click on the first input to give the form focus, and then it works fine.

Both concepts of asking one question at a time, and just typing to answer were brought forward into Typeform. You need to ask a question to get an answer. Just saying ‘Name:’ and providing an input box just doesn’t cut it. You need to bring the human element of conversation into the fray to engage people into answering.

You can see how Typeform has evolved by comparing the QuickyForm you saw earlier, with a typeform created using the latest version of our platform.

Typeforms (on the desktop) don’t use the classic input box for text input that we’re all used to. It’s just the cursor and nice big fonts. A massive departure from web forms of the past, and our competitors.

Staying focussed

It was clear from the off that we had to keep focus. We were just a small team, learning as we went. We made mistakes, but we also focussed on our two goals:

  • Make asking questions online more human and more like conversation
  • Make it really easy for users to fill in the form just by typing

These two goals guide us in every decision we make. Typeforms still only display one question at a time, unlike traditional forms where you can see everything at once. You can still navigate using just your keyboard, and the keys you have to press are always displayed on screen. The experience is the same across all platforms, so you don’t have to relearn every time.

Every feature we add and every change we make is considered. We think about how it will affect the user experience, and we look at how popular a request it is. Every new feature is mocked up, tested, and feedback is used to mould how it looks in the end.

Looking forward

Typeform has come a long way since launching it’s beta in April 2013. Over 50,000 people have signed up for the service and over 2,000,000 responses have been collected. We’ve secured seed funding and the team has grown to 17 people (and we’re hiring!).

We want to democratize the way people ask questions online, and be THE platform they use to do this. We think we’ve got off to a good start, but there’s a lot of work ahead of us. We’re looking to the future, working on improving what we have and adding new features. Features such as:

  • Build API (build typeforms programmatically)
  • Stripe integration (accept payments with typeforms)
  • File upload (upload files through typeforms)
  • Advanced reports (build custom reports with sexy graphics)
  • The Noun Project (include the world’s best icon library)

We’ve got some other ideas we’re fleshing out at the moment, but we’d like your thoughts. Is there a Typeform feature that you’d love to see? Let us know.

READER OFFER: Typeform is and always will be free. Our paid PRO plans give you access to advanced features. We’d love you to try them out, so use the coupon code INSPIREDM before April 4th to get THREE MONTHS FREE monthly PRO plan.

David Okuniev is Co-Founder and Joint CEO of Typeform. Typeform makes it easy to build and share beautifully designed online forms. We call them typeforms, and they mix human creativity with the power of modern, cross-platform web technologies to create new and exciting ways to ask questions online.

Typeforms are used by people all over the world to get to know each other better. From customer feedback, contact forms and presentations to quizzes, wedding invitations and interactive stories; typeforms rewrite the rules, letting you “Ask Awesomely”.

Catalin is the founder of Mostash - a social marketing boutique - and he's always happy to share his passion for graphic design & social media.