The rise of the digital era has seen the death of many once-loved items, think CD players, basic hand-held calculators and address books. Even hand-written, posted letters are on the verge of extinction. But there is one thing that is refusing to go away despite increased IT capability - paper forms - and for good reasons.
Paper forms offer a lot of flexibility. You can skip from page to page and fill in information out of sequence. You can take a paper form with you anywhere, as you don't need to be online to fill it out. It's easy to keep a copy for personal records, simply photocopy the form before you submit it. You also have the opportunity to pick up a pen and put a physical signature on the page, and there is something about formally signing against the content that makes it seem more official.
But just as it has its benefits there are also many problems with using paper forms over electronic submissions, including:
- Illegibility of handwritten responses;
- Wasted time (and paper) where whole sections are marked as "N/A";
- Inconsistency in formatting of "regular" fields such as Phone Numbers and Dates;
- Fields being filled in incorrectly or missed entirely; and
- Delays in transportation of physical documents through the post or even hand delivered.
But now there is a new type of digital form that is finally worthy of replacing paper forms -SmartForms. SmartForms has retained the strength of paper based forms, capitalised on the advantages of virtual forms, and also introduced a new opportunity to tailor the user experience.
By using well designed SmartForms to collect information, you stand to gain the following benefits:
- Reliable and consistent data formatting, including validation and business rule enforcement capabilities;
- Free-from interaction by end users who can populate fields they have input available for;
- The ability to generate a digital copy of the form at any stage to be kept for personal records;
- Forms can be backed up, shared and rendered in a variety of formats, such as PDF, Word and Excel, and even transformed to suit different audiences, i.e. a manager might want to see a summaries view of the form whereas reviewer may need to see the details;
- Forms can be completed offline without an internet connection using common devices, such as iPads and iPhones as well as computers, tablets and smartphones; and
- Conditionally showing and hiding information based on relevance.
There are many benefits of using SmartForms and they can be tailored to meet your needs. Among the most important is all incoming data being captured in a consistent, chosen format, which becomes available for reporting instantly.
This is far more powerful than it sounds! A good SmartForm engine allows you to combine data input into forms with the metadata about the forms to draw true insight into the effectiveness of your forms, and to refine and hone the user experience. Without this capability it would be virtually impossible to see something along the lines of "People who filled in Section D abandon as many forms without submitting as they actually submit", or "Sections B and E are almost always submitted together rather than just one or the other". These insights allow you to easily revise the Smart Form, and through doing so, the end user experience is better, leading to higher user adoption and ultimately a better quality of data.
Also, the use of SmartForms can be far more versatile than you might first think; a standard application form might be an obvious choice but what about a feedback form? An initiation point for a request for assistance? A submission point for questions to be answered publically? A system for rating aspects of a user's experience? By using SmartForms for purposes other than replacements for what would otherwise be standard forms, your business stands to benefit in a plethora of ways.
This is why we have embedded SmartForm technology into our products and our client's applications. Not only do they increase the sophistication of online forms, but they also add valuable insight, improve customer satisfaction and user experience, and obtain operational efficiencies. No wonder they gained the name SmartForms.
Contact us on (02) 6245 7999 to find out how you can implement SmartForms in your operations.
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About F1 Solutions
For over 23 years F1 Solutions has been building quality software solutions for Federal and State Government departments, small and large not-for-profits, and businesses in Canberra and across Australia. We also provide organisations with trusted IT support and advice, as well as a range of other services.
- Software Development