Form design is, of course, a critical part of any process automation project initiative. But form design is much more than just the UX, or user experience. Other critical design elements to consider include process improvement, business rules, and data quality. Let’s address these three items prior to discussing UX design.
The biggest mistake we see companies make is to take their current processes and to convert them “as is” to an electronic format. Automating a flawed or inefficient process is akin to garbage in, garbage out. Granted, there are some benefits solely from collecting data in an electronic format: you’ll eliminate duplicate data entry, reduce data entry errors, improve data quality, etc. But this approach ignores the savings that can be achieved by taking the time up front to improve the process itself. Over time, business processes often diverge from the most efficient sequence. Take the time prior to converting to an electronic format to improve the end users’ work experience, reduce the time it takes the work to be done, and positively impact the bottom line by reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction.
We recommend PowerApps, of course, but a myriad of eForm software vendors exist. Understanding the differences can be quite confusing. One of the biggest factors that separates the leaders from the laggards is the complexity of the form-based business rules the software can handle. Even if your organization’s initial project initiative is driven from a single department with simple business rule requirements, keep in mind that your relationship with your software vendor is long-term. As other departments want in on the success and benefits of an automated system, the requirements can quickly outgrow the capabilities of most of the software options in the marketplace today. Before you start, ensure the scalability of your vendor’s software within your organization.
It is short-sighted to think that electronically capturing data in any format is the best way to improve data quality. There are some obvious and not-so-obvious approaches to data presentation that can significantly impact the quality of the data you are collecting. On the obvious end of the spectrum: wherever possible, force a data selection through data types such as Boolean and picklists, or make fields required based on the answer to another question. Perhaps not so obvious: use code to enforce business rules, validate data within the context of the form, set or filter values based on another selection, or bi-directionally integrate other core system data into the forms. Ensuring that you choose a software that can handle such complexity is paramount.
Finally, what the end user sees on the mobile device is also very important. Certainly branding is a great way to customize the UX, but more important is designing the form to work perfectly on any mobile device. There’s a lot to take into consideration. The fields need to be the right size for the input (finger vs. stylus), and the overall design needs to be responsive to how your workers access the eForms. The latter is important across devices, screen resolutions, orientations, lighting conditions, peripheral uses, and operating systems. All of this needs to be considered prior to either vendor selection or hardware acquisition.
Have additional questions about UX and form design? We’d love to hear them.