Ten Pointers for Using Electronic Forms

The history of electronic forms

You have determined that electronic forms are necessary or that they should be implemented.

A “digital form” is a transaction between a user and the provider of the form. Before the form is presented to the user, it can be pre-populated with data from a backend database system. When the provider receives the form, the data is saved for use in a business process.

The most frequently cited reasons for utilizing electronic forms are as follows:

1. Cost savings through the avoidance of data re-keying. 2. Improved customer service, resulting in increased customer satisfaction.
3. Adhere to a regulation imposed by the government or an industry.

No tool can convert a bad form to a good one, and automating a bad form simply collects more bad data – or alienates your users.

Adhering to these ten tips will ensure the success of your new forms.

1. Select the appropriate strategy

Which form format to use is determined by the purpose for which it will be used.

If your form is extremely brief, such as a two-box login, we recommend using an HTML form.

You may be required to adhere to regulations such as Section 501 or similar ones if your intended audience includes blind or disabled individuals. When complying with such regulations, HTML forms are typically more user friendly.

PDF forms are almost always the best option if:

– Maintaining the layout of an existing paper form may benefit your users, particularly if they are likely to copy from paper to screen.

– The form was previously only available on paper, and you wish to convert it to an electronic format.

2. Availability of Skills

Creating an electronic form and deploying it requires specialized skills. Oftentimes, businesses struggle to implement technology due to a skills shortage and work overload, even after purchasing the necessary computer hardware and software.

Creating an electronic form necessitates the acquisition of new skills:

– Assisting with the installation of software and databases.

– Verbal ability and a working knowledge of business processes.

– Ability to name fields, preferably with an understanding of how the fields will be used in the database.

– Managing the lengths, descriptions, and validations of fields.

– Knowledge of business processes; aptitude for identifying and correcting errors; proficiency with word processors.

– Using the web.

Most organizations discover that they possess these skills, but not necessarily in a single individual. For instance, there may be someone who excels at databases, the web, and validations, while another excels at word processors and comprehends business processes.

You will achieve the best results more quickly if you identify individuals with the necessary skills to collaborate from the start.

3. Verify that each form contains the essentials.

Ascertain that each form contains the following critical information:

– A logo, crest, or other distinguishing mark indicating who issued the form.

– A title that clearly states the purpose of the form.

– A note at the end indicating what to do with it once it has been completed.

– Contact information for obtaining assistance with the form.

4. Modify the form so that it can be completed on-screen.

Eliminate instructions and formatting that are only applicable to printed materials: For instance:

– “write neatly in black ink,” or “write in ALL CAPS.”

– “please check the box” (this cannot be done on-screen; instead, say “please choose”).

– “if additional space is required, use a separate sheet” (this cannot be done on-screen; consider offering a “add another page” button instead).

– dashed lines, italicized text, underlined spaces, and boxes.

Consider the location of the SEND or SUBMIT button. Generally, the best location is at the bottom of the form.

Consider whether you truly require a button that deletes all user input. If you believe that your users will undoubtedly want to do so, create a button that states plainly, “THROW AWAY ALL MY ANSWERS.”

5. Revise the directions

The majority of forms contain far too many words.

Cut them in half.

6. Specify rules for frequently asked questions

If you are working with a single form, you can omit this tip.

The majority of us must contend with a variety of forms. When you compare a sample of them, you will notice that certain questions recur frequently.

For instance:

– Personal information such as a person’s name, address, telephone number, and email address.

– Consents and declarations.

– Date-related requests, such as the start of a service.

– Official data, such as a bill reference number.

Establishing some standards for how you ask these repeated questions will expedite your work and make it easier for your users. For instance:

– Determine the order in which you will request names, for example, title, first name, and last name.

– Determine whether to request an address in a single multi-line block or in three or four lines.

– Determine whether to request the postcode first (and consider using an address lookup product) or at the conclusion of the address.

– Determine whether you require a portal-based model of form personalization, in which the user receives a pre-filled form with basic information already filled in for him automatically.

– Limit your declaration to the bare minimum that your attorneys will accept, and then use it consistently.

– Determine the maximum number of characters that you will accept in standard questions such as names. When you automate the form, these will become the field lengths.

It will save you time if you create a ‘template’ form with the basic information and frequently asked questions pre-populated. You can either use Word’s ‘template’ feature or create a simple starting document that you copy for each form.

7. Maintain control of the forms throughout their life

Forms can change over time for a variety of reasons. It could be a legal reason, a usability reason, or a business-specific reason.

Ascertain that you have a straightforward strategy in place for managing the versions of each form published.

8. Consider the business case for validation.

Three levels of validation are possible:

– Strict – the computer will not permit the user to proceed until the user enters the correct data.

– Soft – the computer notifies the user when data is missing or incorrect, but the user may continue.

– None – the computer displays no warning and accepts any input.

Consider the business justifications for each validation. Paper forms allow users to enter whatever they believe is necessary to complete the form’s purpose. This means that even if their response is unexpected, they can still complete the form and proceed.

If you enforce strict validation, you risk losing some users whose circumstances differ slightly from what you anticipated.

Soft validations are the most difficult to program, but they can provide the best user experience because they alert users to genuine errors while allowing them to enter data that does not quite fit your pre-defined ideas.

While not validating is the simplest to program, it may confuse your users if they make minor errors inadvertently.

9. Organize it

Forms that appear neat are easier to complete.

Verify that you have used capitalization consistently. Sentence case (as in this example) is the simplest to read. This Is The Next Best Option For A Title Case. ALL UPPER CASE SUCH AS THIS IS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO READ – AVOID IT.

If you choose to include colons after your questions, ensure that they appear after each one.

Attempt to align all of the boxes neatly, both horizontally (along the lines of the questions) and vertically.

Conduct a spell and grammar check.

ten. Validate it with real users

Solicit the participation of some real users from your target audience in testing your form. Observe them as they complete it, and invite them to share their thoughts as they go.

Observing a real user interact with your form is the single most effective way to determine its success.

39 thoughts on “Ten Pointers for Using Electronic Forms”

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