Print forms going online
Forms come in all kinds of formats and sizes. It’s one of those things we all take for granted – we don’t really pay attention to a form until it doesn’t work. If it’s difficult to understand or complete, it becomes bothersome.
The technology available to use for forms is improving in leaps and bounds. While we used to be tied to paper forms, a lot can be done via computer now. We are regularly converting forms from paper to interactive PDF or online.
The “in-between” option from paper to online is PDF format. This gives people the flexibility of printing out the form, or completing it on their computer. In PDFs (when set up correctly), form fields can be made interactive, where they can be typed into on-screen. Buttons can even be placed in the PDF to save, print or email the completed form.
The downside to interactive PDF forms is that not all programs that open PDFs support the interactive fields. At this stage, they seem to work best in Adobe Acrobat. Opening PDFs in browsers is possible, but completing the form fields is not always an available option (such as in Microsoft Edge). We’re hoping that the support of interactive PDFs will become more common.
I personally think the biggest reason for the demand in converting to online is that payment can be completed within the form. There’s no need for someone to post a form and attach a cheque, or hope their direct deposit arrives some time after their form. Payments and form entries are easier to reconcile when they are completed together.
Online forms can use a feature called conditional logic, which is really handy for complex forms. Instead of having a paper form that tells you to skip pages depending on your circumstances, the online form does the “skipping” for the user. They won’t see all of the extra fields they didn’t need to complete – they are only shown the fields relevant to them. So what looks like a daunting form on paper can feel very straightforward when using conditional logic.
The forms can include the option to upload files, which would normally need to be sent separately.
Online forms are also easy to export data from. The details can be placed into a spreadsheet, making it easy to import the data into other programs. And no need to manually type out each entry.
I think that online forms will eventually be the only type of forms we will use in everyday life, but we’re not quite there…not just yet.