How to Design a Form

Designing a form is a common task in many types of office applications. At times, the task is to update an older format that is no longer as useful as in times past. In some cases, the goal is to start fresh and create something for a brand new application or task. With 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.


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    Determine the types of information that must be captured in the fields of the form. This is governed by 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.
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    Arrange those information types in a logical sequence. The idea is to create a flow from 1 field to the next that simply makes sense to those who will make use of 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.
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    Apply that arrangement to the creation of a form template. Software applications typically make it easy to create fields that can be situated 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 captured on the form in the same logical sequence identified earlier.
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    Customize each field on your form template. Most software programs that aid in creating forms make it possible 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.
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    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 drag down menus will often require creating a table and associating it with the appropriate field. Specific instructions in how to accomplish this can be found in the support materials that came with the software.
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    Test-drive your form. Before releasing the form for general use, take the time to enter some data and make sure the result is within your expectations. Should the data fail to capture properly, or 1 or more fields do not function as anticipated, return to the form template and make adjustments.


  • Many word processing programs include software that makes it easy to create forms. Before purchasing software that is designed specifically for form creation, check the resources in your word processor and see if the features are robust enough to manage the type of form creation you have in mind.
  • There are a number of free and open source software packages that can be used to create different types of forms. Before investing in proprietary software to create simple documents, try a few of those free products. They will often work well for basic formats and layouts, and save a lot of time and money.
  • Keep the layout of the form as simple as possible. The idea is to create a format that flows and is not littered with a lot of unnecessary fields or features that detract from the main function

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Categories: Office