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04 15 2008
Please Enjoy

Lunch Form Usability

When the clock starts rolling around noon and stomachs start rumbling, lunch is on the mind. Delivery orders are placed, and you wait. Well, due to some poor design decisions on the lunch form I waited a long time. Worse yet, I was left disgruntled at the end of the situation, all because of poor form design; I ended up faxing the order form to their phone number.

The Potbelly Order FormThe offender? A lightning bolt icon indicating the fax number and some poor ordering

The problem is pretty simple, but twofold. First, why a lightning bolt for a fax machine icon? Granted, there’s no hard rule about what to use as a fax icon, but this one is pretty suspicious. What’s worse is the layout of the next sentence. Notice that Fax is under the phone icon, and call is under the confusing fax icon. Mix in a bit of a rush and just glancing at the sheet while it’s in a fax tray and you have a recipe for disaster.

If you look even closer you can see the word Fax again underneath itself, and again under the phone icon.

The problem is easily solved, and one could say that putting the phone number in the far right helps increase it’s prominence due to it’s proximity to the edge of the page. A second benefit is that it reinforces the process they want you to follow: fax first, then call.

My revised order formMy revised order form

While the food was late, it was still tasty. I’ve eaten at Potbelly enough to be a repeat customer, so this wasn’t enough to put me off. But think of all the new customers that may never reach the point of repeat customer if they suffer a similar folly? Just another example of why good design pays off.

Lunch finally arrivedThe bowl of chili and sandwich, only 60 minutes later than I had hoped!

Anyone else had a similar experience with offline forms? Personally I find it interesting that such mistakes are probably still made in the online world. To be honest, until you’re a victim of such a situation or have someone tell you about it, I’m not sure it’s one of the issues you could catch easily!

Edit: By request I’ve uploaded the full .pdf of the menu for readers. For educational use only!



  1. I run into things like this quite frequently in every-day life. I always make a point of reading everything twice these days. Some layouts are so terrible that it’s impossible to know what is wanted of you. Another example is rebate forms. They will give you the address you are supposed to mail it to as well as the address of their corporate headquarters, and often they are not marked clearly. It is an annoyance but I am afraid it is something we will have to live with until everything is digital (and probably then, too).

  2. @Kevin Zak: The issue on rebate forms makes business sense to be intentional. It’s very common for people to be so frustrated by rebate forms that they fail to send them in, or make a mistake that makes the rebate worthless. Hell, I’d swear they’re so complicated just to make you procrastinate filling them out.

  3. Scan the whole order form and let your readers take a stab at redesigning the whole thing. I can see a lot more wrong with it than this 1 item and you’ve only shown us 20% of the form!

  4. @Jeff: That’s a wonderful idea, I’ve done so at the bottom of the post. I’m sure there are plenty more areas for discussion on the form, as I’ve just written about the one that delayed my lunch!




    1. Icons suck when the word will do just fine. Plenty of space for the 2 words fax and call.
    2. Sized the logo portion 20% smaller and put the address where it belongs, underneath the company name.
    3. Got rid of all of the tiny afterthought text and incorporated it into the enumerated list of steps.
    4. Moved cash/credit to the right and made it more prominent due to space freed up.

    Not a designer. UNIX sysadmin for 13 years now.

  6. @Jeff: I agree with most of your improvements. However, pick-up is optional, and they do delivery. So I’m unsure about the way you laid out the steps for ordering since it seems to communicate that they are for pick up only.

    That said, not bad for a sysadmin. ;)

  7. how about numbering the steps? The numbers could become part of the visual treatment and would bring additional clarity to the order process.

  8. We should have an internal design contest at Clockwork to generate master order form templates. Ideas come to mind:

    - Burrito Loco
    - True Thai
    - Chindian

    Personally, I think that TT and BL need it the most.