Tips for a Good Data Entry Strategy

An efficient and successful data entry strategy begins with the kinds of forms your company uses.  Without clean, simple and organized forms, you won’t get accurate and uniform data collection. Well designed forms are easier to complete, as well as scan, key and OCR.  This holds true for whether your company handles data entry internally or chooses to outsource the back end tasks.  This article will discuss some tips and considerations for designing forms that promote accurate completion and usable data collection.

Design forms that are as brief as possible. Omit detailed fonts and unnecessary graphics.  These makes forms look nice, but they essentially discourage recipients from completing the forms, and make them even harder to process on the back end. A simple form equates to a higher response rate and more accurate data collection.

Everyone has a different style of handwriting—some neat and easy to read, others are impossible to see with the naked eye.  Use grid boxes as opposed to flat lines.  This prompts people to distinguish between letters and numbers.  Standard data entry field sizes accommodate 98% of users, and the following are recommended as guidelines when developing forms:

25 characters for full name, including middle initial

25 characters for street address

15 characters for city, 2 for state and 9 for zip code

30-35 characters for an email address

Designing forms isn’t just about obtaining more responses upon distribution; it’s about accurately analyzing the data upon collection. This is why considerations must be made for how the forms are processed, not just how they look.  Labeling the item numbers on forms with over 10 questions is critical. This makes for more timely and accurate data entry. Using check marks for responses when possible also helps. This encourages quicker form completion by the recipient, and also makes it easier to quantify the data. If the form will be scanned on the back end, scanner registration points must be used so that the scanner can properly orient the form and accurately scan the data.

These are just a few tips for consideration when creating custom forms.  If you have a project and you plan to outsource the processing and data entry, speak with the service before finalizing and mailing your forms.  There may be additional costs associated with longer forms, folded forms and envelopes.  This information makes it a bit easier to design the forms for higher response rates and timely completion, as well as more accurate and affordable data collection.

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