Ready for implementation
The goals of the new implementation for field descriptions are:
- Show field descriptions only when needed: the current descriptions are printed in small type and are always visible. As a result, I've found in my tests that people seem to treat them as "white noise" and simply ignore them. By only showing the field descriptions for the field having the input focus, that noise is reduced.
- Promote field descriptions: the new design should augment the role of the descriptions by coloring them similar to their connected field. At the same time, it should provide them a designated, larger area in a more prominent position inside the form.
The new design removes field descriptions from inside forms entirely and moves them to the bottom of the inner form frame. This provides them with a designated, larger area and actually a more prominent position inside the form. Since even with long forms, this area is never scrolled out of sight (the scroll bars appear next to form fields only - see this long forms mockup), the user always knows where to find additional information on a value he's asked to provide. Furthermore, field descriptions are visually linked to the currently selected field by using the same color scheme for both.
Attempts to move fields to make place for a descriptions show this results in a too form juggling too heavily. Visual indicators like icons tend to again clutter the visual appearance of the form.