When I talk to people about what I do, the first thing that they identify as being ‘information design‘ is forms design. While being one of the areas we specialise in, we are relieved to say that its not ALL we do.
Forms enable organisations to obtain the information they need to understand their customers better, collect details for sales, tax returns or insurance claims, or register information for an event. Without forms, many businesses simply could not function.
Forms are often the single most important piece of design for businesses, yet they are often the poor (design-budget) cousin of promotional design and branding. To create effective forms takes time and money. Perhaps its because they aren’t that glamorous, and our emotional associations with them are so poor.
There’s something about forms. No matter what their purpose most people hate them. My wife and I even hated filling out our forms for the baby bonus — despite the guarantee of $5000 at the end of it. It starts with the look and feel of most forms — busy and bland. The detached language used subsequently compounds this odious impression.
People are both wary and tired of giving away their personal details. How often are we asked to provide our name and address? It’s like having the same conversation over and over again — boring and tedious. And, giving away our personal information to someone that engages us with scant interest and in some instances lack of respect is difficult to come at.
Most people have difficulty navigating their way through forms (i.e. the sequencing of the form questions was not clear, or easy to follow), instructions do not make sense, explanations do not explain things and language is often too detached in tone. As a result, errors and omissions of data in required fields are rife. Tthese forms-related problems can result in loss of business, additional spending on continuous form redesign and printing, plus huge expenses for call centres and form processing staff.
It does not need to be like that.
We employ a number of strategic design and writing features in our forms design to improve the form experience for both form fillers and processors.