The importance of forms for any business of any size cannot be overemphasised. Whether it is customer order forms, application forms, requisition forms, or leave forms, these forms are generally the starting point for a number of critical business workflows. They are the start of engagement and a critical data capture point.
The growth in the use of electronic forms in the last several years has meant that web and mobile smart forms have become the preferred option for many businesses over traditional paper-based forms.
Web and mobile smart forms offer a number of benefits including:
- Improved form access – forms can be easily accessed and completed from websites, intranets, and social media platforms. This can dramatically improve the forms user experience.
- Improved productivity – electronic forms add a number of productivity outcomes for businesses including efficiencies in form completion, automating data extraction, integration with business applications, and reducing the reliance on paper-based workflows and archiving.
- Reduced costs – paper-based forms can be costly to develop and manage in terms of printing and distribution of forms, archiving completed forms, and time in data entry. With web and mobile smart forms these costs can be reduced or removed completely.
However these benefits can only be realised if the web and mobile smart forms are designed and developed carefully. There are a number of important considerations that must be taken into account in designing your web and mobile smart forms.
- Information requirements – It is important to plan the form around the exact information you require. Work backwards through the business process and capture the information that will be required at each stage. From there you will understand the types of questions that you need to ask to get this information.
- Form design and elements – With any form the visual appeal and layout is just as important as the functionality. The flow of the form, the use of radio buttons, checkboxes, mandatory fields versus non-mandatory fields, the use of field labels or prompters, auto formatting, error messages, and the use of progressive disclosure are all important to improve the form usability and user satisfaction.
- Form workflow mapping – Within the form itself there may be an opportunity to build in automated workflows. This could be as simple as automated form submission on clicking ‘submit’ or designing more detailed workflows with approval processes or data verification worksteps.
- Form data management (validation / extraction) – With many web and mobile smart forms they can integrate with existing business applications. This allows two things. Firstly real-time validation of data as it is entered into the form. This could be through database look-ups. Secondly through the automated extraction of data from the form to import directly into business applications. This can dramatically improve form accuracy and reduce errors and time constraints from manual data entry.
- Form Publishing – It goes without saying that easy access to a form when it is needed is critical. Form designers must consider where the form will be published, and how it can be accessed and submitted. This might be from a website, social media platform, intranet or even at point of sale locations.
- Form Archiving – Finally after the form is submitted and processed, the form itself must be archived. The benefit of a web or mobile smart form is they can also be archived electronically in a content management system, file server or within another business application. It is important to understand how and where these completed forms will be stored.
Web or mobile smart forms do provide a number of productivity and cost benefits over paper-based forms. However these benefits can be nullified if these forms are not developed carefully. The next time you are looking at your electronic forms consider each of these important elements before starting.
Contact Colourworks Australia today to discuss how Go Paperless Custom Apps & Forms can improve your paper-intensive business processes.