Rethinking Form(s) and Function

The idea of form following function goes back as far as ancient times, when first century Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio averred that structures should be solid, useful, and beautiful. When form and function are divorced, we’re left either with beauty that lacks utility (which prevents accomplishment), or utility that lacks beauty (which can be defined in many ways, and which can dampen morale and enthusiasm).

Workflow tools

Function with little attention to form may accomplish a task, but it’s not great for motivation.

If you think back to the beginnings of human tool use, however, it’s easier to imagine function following form. For example, the smooth stone eventually is used to grind up berries or herbs. The form was there first, and function was assigned to it. But form and function engage in an eternal pas de deux, where neither is whole on its own.

This interdependence is highly evident in terms of business forms, too. A business form that fulfills its function by gathering specific information, yet offers no logic, beauty, or “flow” that makes it easier to use is not a good form. Neither is the perfectly beautiful form that neglects to gather the necessary information. Here’s how to ensure your business forms embody the best in both form and function.

Start with Process Owners and Process Users

If it’s your job to orchestrate workflow tools to make processes more efficient, your starting point should be with the process owners and process users. Perhaps you’re one or the other of those, but even so, it’s important to evaluate how a process is carried out currently, where the snags are, what types of things go wrong, and how much time is spent dealing with problems. For example, if your task is to make the key request process for new hires easier, the people you need to talk to first are the people who assign keys, and some recent new hires for their perspective.

Defining Function

Whether you’re creating workflow tools for issuing keys or cutting checks to reimburse travel expenses, you need to define several aspects of a process function before you ever use your form creation software. Specifically, you need to know:

      • General process and form layout
      • A summary of the process
      • What outputs the process creates
      • Workflow stages
      • User roles
      • Transitions between workflow stages
      • Transitions between workflow stages
      • Inputs at various stages of the process
      • Integration with other processes
      • Other relevant information

Your forms and workflows must accomplish the necessary tasks first and foremost. And your form creation software should help you do this, and do it with polish and proficiency.

Workflow tools

Define functions with the help of process owners and process users.

Should Form Extend Beyond Function?

Whether form should extend beyond function depends on context. There are some business workflows where it’s all about the output and finesse doesn’t really enter into it beyond simply making sure the process is accomplished efficiently. However, there are business functions where excellent form can take it to another level and even help you differentiate yourself from competitors. For example, an online customer service form can be dry and “all business” and get the job done, but if it is efficient, beautiful, and informative, making customers feel taken care of at every step, form adds to functionality.

Making Your Business’ Overall Form Appropriate to its Function

Whatever business you’re in, from baked goods to industrial control software, how the business is run (its form) should serve its function. On a more granular level, making business forms appropriate and useful for the individual processes that must be accomplished helps serve the overall goals of quality and efficiency. The right workflow tools can make the difference between work processes that get done despite inefficiencies and work processes that flow naturally and inspire a happy workforce.

PerfectForms is form creation software that does far more than just create electronic forms. With its intuitive, drag-and-drop interface, PerfectForms allows creation of entire workflows that are efficient, regulation-compliant, and that perfectly accomplish what they set out to. In other words, PerfectForms is the tool your business needs to ensure that it functions optimally. Watch our demo and see how PerfectForms provides the workflow tools every business can use to perform better.

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