Why Planning Is Pivotal to Electronic Form Design
Do you remember in early days of the internet, when ordinary computer users gained the ability to create their own website? What could be more empowering than allowing everyday people to have their own “home” on the web from which to share whatever they wanted to?
You may also remember early websites that were clashing, confusing collections of bright colors, flashing text, and showcases for every font the user could get their hands on. In other words, just because people had the tools to create their own website didn’t mean they would automatically create a good one.
This phenomenon happens whenever new technology catches on. People understandably want to use all the great new tools at their disposal. Electronic form software is no exception. But planning is no less important with newer technology than it was with the old. Here’s why planning is absolutely essential to outstanding electronic form design.
Electronic Forms Can Be Cumbersome and Confusing Too
Paper forms can be confusing to the uninitiated. In the blank labeled “Number” do they want your phone number? Your employee ID number? And why are the blanks for “Yes” and “No” so big while the blank for writing your entire address is so small? Is that number that didn’t quite photocopy correctly a “4” or a “9”?
Many of these confusing elements can be carried over to electronic forms. Furthermore, creating a new electronic form has the potential for fomenting confusion and exasperation. In other words, just because a form is electronic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. Planning is the key to making sure it is better.
Planning Helps You Put Collected Data to Work
Say you’re in charge of creating electronic forms for the work process of new employee onboarding. Planning ahead helps you realize things like the fact that the first time the new person enters their name, that data can automatically populate “Name” fields on other, related forms, cutting down significantly on repeated data entry.
Or suppose you’re in charge of the workflow that reimburses travel expenses. If you set up your electronic forms to gather data like the flight cost and hotel room rate and copy them to relevant spreadsheets or databases, at the end of each quarter you’ll easily be able to create reports showing how much was spent on each and how that compares to previous quarters.
Always Keep an Eye on the Business Process You’re Intent on Improving
Your electronic forms must serve the workflow in which they play a role. No electronic form is an island, and the different people in their different positions who participate in a workflow have their own ideas for what they want from an electronic form. Before sitting down with your form software, speak to the people involved in the workflow. Test out “beta” versions of electronic forms and collect feedback. And before deploying the final version of your electronic form, test it thoroughly with the people who will be using it every day, making adjustments as needed.
Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should
It can be easy to get carried away with new electronic tools. When programs like Photoshop became widely available, they empowered true artists to take their abilities to amazing new levels. They also empowered bored college students to make hilariously inappropriate photos, and the ambitious home user to turn perfectly acceptable snapshots into “art projects” that fell short.
Electronic form software puts amazing abilities into the hands of people who use forms and workflows, but that doesn’t mean that planning them is no longer important. By taking the time to plan form layout in the context of the users and the workflows that utilize them, you can reap maximum benefits from electronic forms.
PerfectForms is a form creation software with an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy to create pixel-perfect electronic forms. PerfectForms is also workflow software that allows you to link forms together into workflows, and set permissions on entire forms and workflows, or only on parts of them. With PerfectForms, it’s easy to make changes and customize forms and workflows to your exact needs. That way nobody is stuck with an electronic form that’s confusing, and workflows can tick along at a faster pace. Best of all, you can test drive PerfectForms for free by signing up for a trial. If you haven’t tried electronic form software, or even if you have, let us show you what you’re missing.