Forms have been a way of life as long as I can remember. I filled out forms in school, forms for sports, forms for work, forms in the military, forms for taxes, and on and on. Hell, I even filled out forms on a typewriter (Link to wikipedia for those young enough to not know what that is 😉 Wikipedia Typewriter) . We have come a long way since the typewriter, or have we? Why are most forms so damn static? Why do I have to re-enter information over and over again, when they know who I am? I really cringe when I see some of the machinations (check-one $20 word per post) of the digital form world. And in business, poorly designed forms lacking strong design mean lost time, incorrectly entered data and missing information. So, I asked myself a critical question, “Why are most digital forms still so damn painful?” I think there are several reasons, a few outlined below:
Most digital forms are just a duplication of their paper brethren
Forms are thrown together on the fly without thought given to the underlying requirements
Most forms are not designed with the end user in mind
In steps the Form 2.0. The new forms on the street are intelligent, informative and “smart”. They go way beyond the basic data entry, and provide an informative dashboard for collecting information and making informed decisions. Below are 5 requirements of the new form, and can also be deemed as a technical requirements for any organization looking to implement:
Modular Views – How many times are you forced to have multiple applications open to fill out a form? The new digital form is really a digital dashboard, with info, charts and graphics all designed to make a quick informed entry of data.
Data-Centric Design – the first step in any form design happens at the data layer. Being able to surface information quickly, with no code from all types of data sources is an absolute necessity, as well as writing information to the right system(s) upon completion. K2 has some really cool, patented technology called a SmartObject that provides powerful data access. More here: K2 Data & SmartObjects
System Spanning – Organizations are complex beasts today, and they leverage a wide variety of systems: SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft SharePoint, etc. Interfacing with all your Line of Business Systems is absolutely critical in today’s world, and is a true requirement for optimal form efficiency. Being able to read and write to all your departmental and enterprise systems through a single interface can streamline processes, and improve productivity. Of course, this also needs to be done with little or no code.
Automation – Keystrokes kill efficiency, and form automation is key. The use of intelligent drop downs, fields that auto-populate based on user credentials and lookups to core systems are examples of automation. The automation should guide the user, validate data, and drive the required end result.
Dynamic Functionality – A dynamic form can morph its layout based on a wide variety of input. Examples include the addition or removal of fields or views based on data entry. Another is this notion of “state”, where a form can be changed based on who is filling it out, or where it is surfaced in a process.