Forms Best Practices

Please consider these points before building your form:

Why form design matters:

  • Gives users a consistent, professional overall experience
  • Gives users a perception of campus culture
  • Reduces confusion for users Poor designs can:
  • Cause confusion and frustration
  • Lead to users not completing
  • Make users feel violated (sensitive information)

Best Practices for General Forms

  • Minimize requests for sensitive data
    • Only ask questions related to race/gender/ethnicity if it is vital to the reason for the form – not just to collect data
      • If you are collecting information on race/gender/ethnicity then be inclusive and give the option to not answer
  • Use consistent naming convention/indexing system
    • Last, First, Middle – this improves Record management
  • Use Consistent document type titles
  • Only ask for necessary information – don’t be greedy
    • As few questions as possible
    • Can you create a workflow that allows for auto-fill of information from ctcLink?
    • If you are making a field “optional” do you need it?
      • If you need to ask for this information put it later on the form
      • Be very clear to users why this information is pertinent to the form
  • Question order matters
    • Start with the easiest data to complete and work up to harder or more sensitive information
    • Order questions so they are logical from a user standpoint and not from a spreadsheet standpoint
    • Group related questions together
  • Use Smart forms with check systems (validation)
    • Only allow numbers to be put in a field requiring numbers
  • Give clear instructions on desired format of answers
    • Example birthdate format mm/dd/yyyy
  • Explain to participant what will happen next with the form
    • Can forms be saved? Can they be printed?
  • Use two forms of identifiable data validation
    • Student ID and DOB
  • Have actual stakeholders and intended users review the form

Consider what happens behind the scenes

  • Use conditional logic (if someone answers a certain way additional questions do or do not pop up)
  • Define internal workflow
    • What happens internally after “submission”
      • Does someone get notified?
      • Does someone have to “approve” something?
      • Does the form go into a record management system? If so where? Does this follow legal rules (FERPA)?
      • Should submitter get a “confirmation” email?
  • Use electronic signatures
    • Include note that a typed signature counts as an electronic signature
    • Software such as Docusign should only be used under circumstances where it fulfills a legal requirement
  • Where will this form appear? On website, in email link, PDF?
    • For Marketing – use approved form template
      • Black and White
      • Only use color for functional reasons (to call attention to a specific part of the form)
      • It is important to get the right file format for the intended use
      • Resolution matters
    • Only use the approved logo from marketing
  • Where should the form live?
    • If it is …..



  • Consistent structure and order of fields
  • Clear labels for fields
  • List labels on top of fields

Top vs. Side-aligned



  • Font should be above 16px
  • Consistent collection of information
    • Demographics
      • First name, Middle Initial, Last Name,
      • Student ID number, Date of birth (email?)
      • Double verification for online forms only
  • Choose radio buttons or checkboxes over dropdowns
    • Dropdowns are easier to miss-choose
    • Radio buttons when only one option should be chosen
      • Vertically stacked (list format)
    • Checkboxes if multiple options can be chosen
  • Use single column format


Single vs. Multi-column

  • Do not use color coding
  • Online forms must be mobile friendly


Why Use Record Management:

  • Electronic storage
  • Assist in workflow
  • Help in decision making
  • Help in reporting
  • Help with regulatory compliance
  • Help with process improvement



Article ID: 134682
Wed 10/6/21 7:52 AM
Wed 10/6/21 7:52 AM