How to Design a Form?

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Designing a form is a common task in many types of office applications. At times, you may need to update an older format that is no longer useful. In other cases, the goal is to start fresh and create something brand new. In both scenarios, there are a few basic steps that will make it easier to design a form that is well organized, easy to read and will fulfill its purpose.

Determine the types of information that must be entered in the fields of the form. This will depend on the intended use of the document. Identify how many different pieces of information must be captured, and relate that to the number of fields required to provide adequate space for that data.

Arrange the information types in a logical sequence. The idea is to create a flow from 1 field to the next that will make sense to those who will use the document. A very simple form that is intended to capture basic contact information may follow a sequence of date, first name, last name, address, city, state or province, zip or postal code, telephone and fax numbers and a field for an email address.

Apply the arrangement to the creation of a form template. Software applications typically make it easy to create fields that can be moved by using a computer mouse to drag the field into position on a blank document. Create and place fields that correspond to the data that must be entered on the form in the same sequence you chose earlier.

Customize each field on your form template. Most software programs used to make forms allow you to adjust the length and width of each field, as well as restrict the type of characters that are allowed in each field. This makes it possible to ensure that dates and telephone numbers are entered in a uniform manner.

Add drop down menus when appropriate. If the form is to be used in an online environment or part of a template in a database, adding drop down menus will often require creating a table and associating it with the appropriate field. Specific instructions on how to accomplish this can be found in the support materials that came with the software.

Test-drive your form. Before releasing the form for general use, take the time to enter some data and make sure the result is what you expected. Should the data not get entered properly, or 1 or more fields do not function as anticipated, return to the form template and make adjustments.

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