Forms came about as the industrial revolution gained traction. Before then, there was little need because there wasn’t as much in the way of office work for industries. But as the paperwork that accompanies manufacturing increased, businesses looked for ways to make office work proceed as efficiently as the assembly line. Hence, forms were developed.
Paper or electronic, a well-designed form is a tool for gathering and processing information in a uniform manner. Today a shift away from paper forms and toward electronic forms is ongoing as people realize the time and accuracy advantages that electronic forms offer. If your organization uses forms (and whose doesn’t?), you want the form-making process to be straightforward and effective, so that forms perform as intended. Here are 5 ways on how to make forms more easily.
1. Sketch New Forms on Paper to Get Creative Juices Flowing
If you’re making a paper form into an electronic form, you may not need to change the layout. In fact, making an electronic form look like its paper counterpart, right down to the colors, fonts, and other features, eases the transition for end-users. When the electronic form looks just like their paper form, they know what to do.
If you’re creating an electronic form from scratch, try sketching it out in a few different ways to get a better idea of what you want the final product to look like. With good workflow software, you should be able to translate your final sketch into an electronic form easily.
2. Choose Software That Allows Flexibility
For maximum utility, your forms should be customized to your exact needs. The right workflow software allows this, so you end up with custom-tailored forms that are clear and logical. Use familiar words in form instructions, and consider using drop-down lists for users to choose answers from where appropriate. If your electronic form has open-ended questions, allow a sufficient number of characters for users to type their answers. Make sure the fonts you select are readable in terms of size, color, and contrast with the background.
3. Avoid Matrixes
Matrixes, which are form tables with both top and side headings, may save space, but people find them tricky, even if they use matrixes every day (like bus or train timetables). Separating out a matrix into individual questions and answer blanks may seem counterintuitive, but people have an easier time filling out forms this way. It may require dividing up your electronic form into multiple “pages,” but collecting information in these smaller “chunks” can keep end-users from feeling overwhelmed.
4. Ask End-Users for Input
Who will use the forms most? Once you identify these people, ask them if they have ideas about how form layout should look. They may have a perspective you hadn’t considered in terms of order of questions, placement of instructions, or size of blank fields. The goal with forms is to collect data consistently and quickly, and the people who will be using them every day can offer you valuable insights into why questions need to be ordered a certain way, how to divide up lengthy forms, and who should receive automated alerts when a form is submitted.
5. Use Software That Lets You Create Workflows as Well as Forms
Electronic forms have many advantages over paper forms. Electronic forms that are part of streamlined electronic workflows are even better. Choose workflow software that not only allows you to create custom forms exactly how you want them, but that lets you link them together into electronic workflows. Workflow software can be made to do all the form “handling” for you, alerting key personnel when their input is needed and ensuring that everyone who needs a copy of a completed form receives one. By combining forms and workflows using workflow software, you significantly reduce your organization’s time burden for paperwork.
Paper forms and manual workflows are outdated and generally too slow for the modern business. Workflow software allows you to transform paper-based processes into electronic ones that are faster and more accurate, so every step of a workflow is accelerated. PerfectApps is workflow software designed for the non-technical user. With a virtual canvas, you can drag and drop form elements into place, and then place them into logical workflows so that no steps are neglected, and key personnel are notified at every step. Take a look at the PerfectApps demo and see for yourself how to make your forms work for you, and not the other way around.