What Is Data Hygiene and How Does It Affect Online Forms?

Online forms

If you have studied computers at all over the past 30 years, you are familiar with the phrase, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Of course, the concept is much broader than just computer programming. After all, if you use poor quality ingredients in a great recipe, you can’t expect the same results as if you had used high-quality ingredients.

In short, the value of your organization’s data collections is only as good as the quality of the data itself. Was the data obtained in appropriate ways? Did anyone screen it for outliers and obvious mistakes? Is the data up to date? Data hygiene is a general term referring to how useful your data is. Maximum usefulness comes from data that is complete, accurate, up-to-date, and formatted correctly. Data hygiene makes a measurable difference in the usefulness of online forms.

Data Quality from Manually Completed Forms

With manually completed, paper forms, there are far more chances for mistakes. The user could misread an instruction and write the wrong information into a blank. They may have poor quality handwriting, so that when someone tries to take the data and enter it into a spreadsheet or database, they enter it wrong. Data on manually completed forms is also subject to smudges and other types of damage, as well as loss of the form altogether. It’s easy to see why data written by hand onto paper forms is not “clean.”

Why Online Forms Naturally Increase Data Hygiene

Online forms eliminate several of the data quality issues inherent in manual forms that are completed by hand. Handwriting is no longer an issue, and no longer does someone have to read and interpret handwritten information and enter it into a database or spreadsheet, introducing many more interfaces where errors can creep in. In fact, with the right online form software, the data entered into online forms can be made to go directly to a depository of some kind, such as a spreadsheet, without having to be handled by another party at all. This won’t eliminate all data errors, but it makes a significant difference compared to data from handwritten forms.

Additional Steps for Ensuring Purity of Form Data

Online forms

Form software can help you specify data formats and normal ranges to help prevent errors.

Form software may include other data safety measures that ensure high data quality. For example, some form software allows form creators to specify the format of input into a form field. Those rules might be quite general, for example allowing someone to enter numbers, but not letters into a blank. Or they might be more specific, specifying, say, that a phone number must be entered in a XXX-XXX-XXXX format before the form will accept it.

Rules can also be implemented to check for outliers. Suppose a form has a blank for a measurement in feet, and the user enters a measurement in inches. The form can be made to recognize the possibility of an error having been made, and prompt the user to review data before proceeding.

The Right Form Software Makes All the Difference

Not all form software delivers the high quality online forms you need. PerfectForms is form software that is powerful and flexible enough to allow non-technical users to create fully-customized online forms with the possibility of several types of backstops to prevent data errors from getting in. Form field labels can be customized to be highly specific (“Enter your phone number, starting with area code”), to only allow certain types of data, and to check against normal data value ranges to flag potential errors before they are entered.

The data you collect with the online forms you create with PerfectForms can be hygienic enough that you’re confident that the processes that use the data will perform as expected. Data quality is of greater importance than many people realize, and when companies go the extra mile to ensure good data hygiene, they can gain a competitive advantage over companies that don’t.

We invite you to read through some of our extensive PerfectForms case studies. See for yourself how PerfectForms assists businesses and other organizations across a wide range of industries in becoming faster, more accurate, and more competitive.

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