Our (failed) first attempt
What we learned
- The experience was overwhelming. If you start from a blank form, you can gradually learn how to use the form editor as you make your first form. But with the AI onboarding, new users had to get acquainted with the Fillout editor and parse all the questions that were added to their form, at the same time.
- There was no ability to undo and iterate. Once you landed in the pre-built form, that was it. You couldn’t re-prompt Fillout to modify the form or undo some of the changes if they weren’t what you wanted. We understood this better a few weeks later when OpenAI
launched ChatGPT. One of the things that makes ChatGPT great is the ability to iterate on a prompt if you don’t get the outcome you need - something Fillout lacked.
- The AI was a one trick pony. Even if the AI produced a helpful initial form, the user was left hanging, expecting the rest of the form building experience to be super-charged in some way. This was doubly true since we marketed Fillout to be an “AI-powered form builder” - lesson learned.
- We didn’t teach users how to prompt effectively. Many people gave generic prompts like
Order form, which, unsurprisingly, yielded generic results. The few who did succeed provided details like the
toneof the form, specifics on the questions they wanted to ask, and how long the form should be. Although we had a basic placeholder and tooltip, that clearly wasn’t enough to guide users to success.
What we’re doing differently
- First, the experience is entirely in-editor. To trigger the feature, you click on the sparkle icon ✨ in the top left corner of the screen. You can use it whenever you need it, or not at all. Because we don’t generate an initial form with AI, you get the benefit of gradually discovering the form builder without being overwhelmed. Once you start using the AI, you’re better acclimated to understand what is changing.
- We show tips on how to prompt effectively and let you choose whether you want to add one question or multiple questions at once. This gives you more control over what the AI actually does.
- The AI is context-aware. Similar to how Github Copilot takes into account your most recently viewed code files, Fillout takes clues from your current form to ensure that the new AI content fits in as you’d expect it to.
- We stream partial completions from OpenAI to reassure you that something is happening and that you’re not just stuck on a loading screen.
- Most importantly, we clearly show you what questions were AI generated and give you the option to undo with one click.
Dominic is the co-founder of Fillout.com. He previously worked on engineering & product at Retool. Prior to Retool, he started Cheer (backed by Sequoia and acquired by Retool in 2020).