One of the most common use cases for Bonzai, and for intranets in general, is to provide a central area where important forms can be accessed by users. Whether these forms are online web forms or simply documents that must be printed, filled out, and submitted, there are a number of considerations that will make the forms easier for users to use, improving the quality of the data collected.
- Think of the form as a conversation with the user. Don’t present too much information to the user at once, and ensure that information is presented in a logical sequence in order to avoid confusing the user. For especially long forms, break it up into logical sections by either creating a tabbed form, or a multi-stage form with previous/next buttons that guide the user through multiple pages of information.
- Always consider the context in which the user will be filling out the form. If the user is going to interact with the form primarily on a mobile device, think of ways to reduce the use of open text fields, opting instead for drop-down fields and check boxes, particularly for fields that require limited responses.
- Use form validation wherever it makes sense. For example, validate email address fields to ensure that the data is in the firstname.lastname@example.org Pair these validation rules with simple error messages in plain English, placed near the source of the error.
- Make your forms accessible for everyone. Many organizations mandate a certain standard of accessibility, particularly in the public sector. Use appropriate input and label tags, and include alt text for any images. This will help screen readers interpret the form content.
- Include a confirmation when the user submits the form. This can be an on-screen confirmation, or an email confirmation. If the user was asked to provide personal data or payment information, provide both on-screen and email confirmations.
- Indicate mandatory fields with a simple asterisk, and include a simple legend at the top so users know the meaning of the asterisk. Simply writing “* indicates required field” is generally sufficient.
- Include simple labels for your fields. For commonly-requested information, keep the labels short and simple. For example, when asking for the user’s full name, simply writing “Full Name” is sufficient, rather than something longer such as “Enter Your Name Here”. However, for fields that aren’t often found on forms, longer labels may be more appropriate. At the same time, take care not to make labels too long. Anything with a length of more than a dozen words or so is probably not being read anyway.
- Remove visual clutter from the form to keep the user focused on the task at hand. Distracting images, videos, or links give the user a reason to go elsewhere while they’re in the middle of a task.
- If the form requires the user to provide complex information that may not be easily accessible, give them a way to save their work so they can return to their work when they have all the necessary information.
- Finally and most importantly, TEST YOUR FORM with end users to ensure that the fields make sense and that the form covers the use cases.
Forms can be incorporated into Bonzai in many different ways, depending on the use case. Bonzai includes content search features that allow you to show rollups of printable forms that are available to users, in a searchable directory format.
More sophisticated online forms can be built with third-party tools such as Nintex Forms, and can incorporate workflow functionality to allow approvals, email notifications, and other advanced functionality.
Regardless of the chosen approach for implementing forms in your Bonzai environment, the tips outlined above will ensure that your forms are usable and provide valuable information from users.