How to Design Forms for Efficient Processing

Businesses value customer feedback, but few know the most effective way to obtain it.  Oftentimes, businesses don’t give much thought as to the methods used to collect feedback. Instead, they focus primarily on return rate.  What these businesses don’t realize is that the way a survey or form is designed can have a huge impact on a variety of characteristics, like the volume of completed surveys, swiftness of return and accuracy of processing.

Related:  Mobile-friendly forms design

Design Affects Processing Cost

The most significant factor affected by form design is cost. Companies think attractive, eye-catching surveys have a higher likelihood of being completed and returned, and while this might be the case, it’s not necessarily the best investment of time and money.  The challenge is the more detailed the form, the more it costs to process.

A variety of characteristics impact the overall price to process and mine data. Handwritten forms require increased labor and time, thus cost far more.  Simple “yes/no” responses indicated in tick boxes or bubble form are standardized. These can be processed by automated computer software, bypassing the time and labor associated with manual data entry.

3 Important Form Guidelines

Field types and size. Illegible handwriting is the leading cause of inaccurate data collection.  Many people don’t write neatly, especially if they’re using cursive.  This increases the time and labor necessary to process data.  Unconstrained forms offer open, ample space for a person to write as small or messy as they wish. Constrained forms use lettering grids and field prompts to confine writing. Also, use reasonable field sizes. Overcrowded forms are less accurate and slower to process.

Circle and check boxes. If single-value entries are encouraged, use check boxes to standardize answers. Not only will this drastically reduce labor, it cuts down on turnaround time as well.  If your data entry provider utilizes OCR technology, it’s a better idea to use circles instead of boxes.  Data suggests a person will likely fill in a circle bubble completely, as opposed to placing an “X” inside a box.  The latter lessens OCR recognition. If the provider is not using OCR, check boxes are acceptable, but each field should be numbered to improve organizational structure for manual data entry.

Return method and fold style. Think beyond the design of form content and consider how feedback is returned for collection and processing. Self-mailers, like a postcard, are user-friendly and more likely to be returned than a form containing an envelope. Avoid using folded cards, unless responses are confidential.  Folds increase data entry cost because time must be spent to unfold and flatten cards for processing.

Related:  More form and survey design tips

Forms that are thoughtfully designed are far easier to complete, scan, process.  Elements like those discussed above have a big impact on not only processing cost, but accuracy, completeness and return rate of responses.  For more information on efficiently designing forms and surveys, contact ILM today.

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