If you’re like most businesses, you probably use forms that are filled out by hand to collect certain pieces of information. For example, a magazine publisher might rely heavily on paper forms to collect subscriptions to their publications. Other companies often use surveys to assess and improve your customer satisfaction.
Whatever the purpose for the data entry forms you use, they must be designed to be cost effective. Otherwise, you might end up spending far more money and time collecting information than the data would actually be worth. To minimize the costs of data collection and data entry, make sure your forms are well designed.
What Do Cost Effective Data Entry Forms Look Like?
To figure out what makes a data entry form cost effective, first, consider this question: What are you trying to accomplish with your forms? Obviously, the main purpose is to collect data. The more responses you can get to your forms, the fewer you will have to print, and thus the more cost effective they will be.
The key to cost-effectiveness is therefore to make a form that will attract responses. People will have a much easier time deciding to fill out a well-designed form than one that looks sloppy. If it’s badly designed, you’ll lose out on responses, ultimately wasting the form’s potential (not to mention the funds and time put into it).
Another key item is ease of data entry. You’re going to be transferring the data on the forms to digital format, whether that’s through manual data entry, document scanning, or OCR (optical character recognition). The faster and more reliably this happens, the more you’ll reduce excess time and funds on entering data and fixing errors. Again, a strong, user-friendly design is essential.
Keep Your Data Entry Forms Simple
Above all else, simplicity is vital to making your forms more effective. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Use a logical format. If the form is hard to follow, it won’t work as well as it needs to.
A big part of simplicity is being brief. If your card trails on and on without end, presenting line after line and page after page of questions to answer, people will be far less likely to complete it than they would if it were short, simple, and to the point. Most people won’t even bother reading it at all. Be brief, and people are more likely to put their time into completing the form.
Simplicity will also help with the processing and analyzing on the back end as well. Some keys to simplicity that will help encourage responses and expedite processing include the following:
Use clear, readable fonts
Avoid graphics and other junk. This can clutter up the form’s appearance
Use boxes for individual characters. This makes the form much easier to read and compensates for variations in respondents’ handwriting
Limit the number of questions you ask. If possible, limit the form to a single card
Number questions if you have more than a few on the form. This assists with data entry by reducing the amount of reading and double-checking that data entry professionals have to do
Of course, depending on the type of information you’re after, your data entry form may not follow all of these specifications. If you really need complex data, for example, a long form may be unavoidable. Even so, keeping everything clear will facilitate response, entry, and interpretation.
Make Your Data Entry Forms Uniform
In addition to keeping things simple, you also want to be consistent. If you randomly change things up part way through the form, it will confuse the respondent for a bit as they get their bearings back. At the very worst, it might lead to erroneous responses, depending on the nature of the form’s shift. In addition, uniformity helps with the scanning/data entry/OCR process.
One item that helps with uniformity is using character boxes on the form. These help space out written characters evenly and counteracts messy handwriting. Similarly, using check boxes can assist with both the process of filling out the form and facilitating recognition afterward.
Font, spacing, and formatting should be consistent throughout the form. If you phrase a question a certain way at the beginning, be sure to do it the same way each time you have a similar question later on. If you offer multiple responses to particular questions, be sure the options are formatted the same way throughout.
Additional Tips For Your Data Entry Form Design
The process of data entry has its own little nuances, and something as insignificant as a sticker label could make a world of difference in how cost effective your forms are. Remember, you’re going to be working with massive volumes of forms, so if one aspect of their design makes a form take a couple seconds longer to process, you’ll be looking at hours more labor to enter all the data.
A few tips to keep in mind when designing your form include the following:
Avoid folds if possible. Each fold will make it take a little longer to process each form, effectively increasing its cost and resulting in extra fees. Note: If you’re asking for personal information, adding a fold can increase response rates, so be sure to keep that in mind
No stickers, including labels. These can get stuck in scanners and make the forms much more costly to process. If you need personalized data on the forms, it is usually cheaper to print customized forms from the start
Use barcodes and check digits to promote accuracy during processing
Use a form number to promote recognition. If you update the form, update the number so that the changes can be quickly taken into account
Include scanner registration points. These help the scanner orient itself consistently with each form
Use self-mailers. Opening thousands of envelopes gets cumbersome and makes the whole process take longer
Tweak Your Data Entry Form Design To Lower Costs, Increase Efficiency & Improve Responses
Neglecting any of these tips can make the data entry process take much longer, thereby increasing the costs of processing your forms. Get more information on data entry form design by visiting the Data Entry Form Design Guide page.