Best Practices for Design of Online Forms
Moving paper forms online and allowing them to be completed and submitted digitally is a tremendous improvement over retaining a clunky, manual process. That said, if you plan your online forms carefully and create them with the right workflow designer software, you can take processes to an even more elegant and efficient level.
Electronic survey forms offer your organization far more flexibility than their paper counterparts. If you follow best practices, you can ensure a positive reception from the end-users who will be changing from using paper forms to online forms. Here are some best practices to consider.
Let Users Measure Their Progress
When you fill out paper forms, you can immediately size them up based on how many pages there are, font sizes, and how much white space is on the page. With online forms, you can, if you wish, put a multi-page form all on one page, but this isn’t always ideal. A form user may be immediately intimidated when their online form loads and their right-hand scrollbar shrinks … and shrinks … and shrinks.
When you break up electronic forms into virtual pages and let users know how much progress they have made, you reassure them that the process will not be onerous. At the top or bottom of each virtual page, for example, you could include information like, “Page 4 of 5.”
Specify Input Formats Clearly
If the data collected by your online forms will be used by other programs, it will probably need to be entered in a specific format. If you need dates to be entered as “MM/DD/YYYY,” specify this rather than making the user employ trial and error.
On the other hand, if your data doesn’t have to be entered precisely, use your workflow designer software to accept multiple data formats. A user could, for example, enter a date in either the MM/DD/YY or MM/DD/YYYY format and have it be accepted. The same could be true for phone numbers, which might be entered as XXX-XXX-XXXX, (XXX) XXX-XXXX, or other formats.
Validate User Input
Have you ever filled out an extensive online form only to have it rejected because you neglected to enter something, or entered something incorrectly? That is frustrating and is also why your workflow designer should allow you to validate user input immediately upon input rather than waiting until all pages of a multi-page form have been completed.
Ideally, your form should notify the user as soon as they have entered something invalid, so they can correct the problem then and there. At the very least, your form should validate user input with every page of a multi-page form.
Make Online Forms Easy on the Eyes
Since you’re not trying to cram as much information onto an 8.5 x 11-inch piece of paper, you don’t have to use tiny fonts and blanks for online forms. You may want your electronic forms to look very much like their paper counterparts so that users will learn how to use them quickly. Even so, you can take steps to make them as legible as possible.
The best workflow design software solutions allow you to easily “brand” your online forms with the colors, fonts, and logos you would include on paper forms. Doing so can make the form-filling process reassuring, whether your online forms will be used by employees or by online customers.
Acknowledge When a Form Has Been Submitted
It can be disconcerting to submit an electronic survey form and not receive any indication that it has been submitted successfully. It’s better if successful submission of a form automatically brings up a page saying “Thank you for submitting your form,” “Thank you for your order,” or something similarly reassuring.
PerfectForms is a highly-intuitive workflow management software created so non-technical users can make online forms and deploy workflow applications without having to use programming language. The flexibility and power of PerfectForms allow organizations across all industries to quickly implement electronic forms and workflows, saving time and money, and reducing error rates.
We invite you to read some of our case studies and learn the many ways PerfectForms transforms inefficient, error-prone processes into sleek, elegant, electronic workflows.
Tags: online forms