Forms: Part 2: Simplify
By giving your user a form, you are asking that they take time from their day to complete this task and provide you with information. Keeping the forms simple helps your users complete the form more quickly – and the quicker they complete the form, the quicker they can get the information back to you.
1. Fields. In many cases, you’ll already have some information about your user. This is especially true with personnel forms – an established employee already has a file with their information. If you already know something about the user, don’t ask it again.
Example: An employee needs to submit a expense form. You could ask for their address, their phone number, their email, their department, office phone, etc. – but if instead you ask for their name and ID number, you can find the rest – if you need it. The fewer fields you need them to complete, the quicker they can complete the form.
2. Required vs. Optional fields. If your user comes across a field that they feel doesn’t apply to them – and you’ve made it required – your user may “give up” on the form. This is especially true of on-line forms.
Example: You make First and Last name – and Middle initial – required. Not everyone has a middle name…
Required fields should be reserved for only the “mission-critical” information – that, without it, the form is unusable. Making everything required is like TYPING IN ALL CAPS. And you don’t want to be one of those people, do you?
3. Macros – what’s the big deal? A macro is a bit of code that lives in a word or excel document that can perform calculations for the user. This might be totaling figures, pulling in data from another source, or updating content in another area. While this can be helpful, some malicious folks found ways to exploit vulnerabilities in the macro code and infected computers with viruses from these documents. As a result, many email programs will block the sending of files with macros and many browsers will prevent them from being downloaded. Unless the calculations are critical to the function of the form – leave out the macros. Otherwise, your form might be unusable.
So: Ask only what you need, require only the most important fields, and skip the macros.