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The empty text box may be the most daunting HTML element. How do I possibly fill it, the user asks himself. What do I say?

Companies have tried various approaches to eliminating textbox anxiety. Twitter reduced the box to 140 characters. Tumblr and Facebook allow quick likes and shares with only clicks. FormSpring prompts users with questions of the day.

The newest of these metaphors is the MadLib, a structured text box based on the magical children’s game found in most birthday party grab bags. This one is from the Pipewise home page. MadLibs ensure users provide required the data in a structured format. Users don’t need to think; they answer a series of simple implicit questions, just like speaking to a sales rep at a BestBuy. It’s a very natural interaction method. Plus, a MadLib outputs structured data, making analysis of inputs much easier.

If your product has an empty text box, consider replacing it with a MadLib.

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