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Form design (manual form) for computer input.

I noticed that the user/operator/encoder, actually anybody, does have a problem reading someone's handwriting.
e.g. a form filled up by a customer and is being encoded in the computer.
Is it better to have duplicate entry for e.g. name.
Normal name:_________
All Caps name: _________
So that if you find it difficult to read the normal case handwriting, you still have an option to look for another form, which is all capital. And, it could possibly minimize the encoder and the customer for clarification.
Is this a good idea? Do you have any other idea.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
While this might be very helpful for the person entering the information, as user this would annoy me greatly.
Single Entry Send private email
Thursday, May 18, 2006
If legibility is an issue direct the person filling the form to use all capital printing.  Having them fill info twice is annoying
Honu Send private email
Thursday, May 18, 2006
I agree. They might just skip the duplicate entry. Have one entry and request all caps. Some forms have a separate block for each letter to force the writer to be neater, which can also be annoying, but I don't think it's as bad as making the writer enter the same info twice. What you really should do is give the writer an incentive to be legible. If we’re talking consumers, offer to mail a free sample or gift certificate in exchange for the form, and they’ll be more careful with their names and addresses.

Regarding a similar technique, does anyone know if making the user enter their email twice in web form actually works? Or do users just copy and paste the first entry? How often does this catch errors (as seen in the logs)?
Michael Zuschlag Send private email
Thursday, May 18, 2006
lay the form out so the information is somewhat logical, and also easy for the data entry people to use.

unless you have a chance to use a cattle prod on the people who fill the form in by hand no matter what you state or how you design it be prepared for the illegible scrawl hand written forms attract.

i process such forms into a system i designed, its hard enough getting people to put the flipping *date* in the box marked *date*, never mind about the rest of it.

e.g. the form is to track defects on trains. if i had a quid for every form i've seen where the 'location' box had 'in the office' or some variation of it written in.. ARGH.

form design is an art form, its also lost on most people. Just make the boxes big enough to write in. and *long enough* tied to a sensible prompt for each box. it probably won't help but then you'll know its not your fault.

btw the forms i get are filled out by *skilled* people, apparently doctors are even worse.
Claire Rand
Thursday, May 18, 2006
If the Normal name and All Caps name don't match, which is correct? "A man with one watch always knows what time it is, a man with two watches is never sure."

Michael, I've also wondered the same thing. The solution I like that ensures the correct e-mail address is entered is when the system sends you an e-mail with a temporary passcode  (or a URL with the passcode embedded) which you have to enter in order to proceed.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
> And, it could possibly minimize the encoder and the customer for clarification.

I'm wondering just what the software does!  Sounds like Alice Through the Looking Glass.  Beam me up, Scotty... (So, if you're doing forms in English, make sure someone else is proofing the instructions.)

I have enough trouble with "print name" and "signature" boxes, and I have no trouble admitting to an illegible signature.

Is a paper form the best way to get the information?  Any way to do an on-line entry?  I'm still surprised that more doctors don't have terminals in the waiting room to do address verification.  (ISV market?)
Ideophoric Send private email
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Until recently, completed paper forms were considered legally authoriative, whereas "web forms" were not. (It's harder to dispute the information on a form if the info is your own handwriting.) The exception appears to be forms that contain some personal and otherwise restricted information about you - such as a credit card number, a social security number or a personal identification number. So I think we're stuck with paper forms for a little while longer.

That said, my biggest beef about paper forms is that too often, the form is laid out in a way as to maximize the information on one sheet of paper - rather than contextually or intuitively.

For example, people tend to fill out an address (in the United States) like this...

The David
123 Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90001
(123) 555-0001

I've seen forms where the boxes are arranged horizontally
so that the form looks more like this...

The David        (123) 555-0001
123 Main Street  Los Angeles
CA              90001

And as a result, people put the state where the city goes, the zip code in the gender box, the city in the phone number box, etc etc.

I have the feeling that if people stopped trying to fit everything on one form, and just took as much space as needed (front and back), you'd have fewer errors to correct.

With reference to the initial question, I find the easiest solution is to print right across the top, "Please use capital letters when completing this form" and I've seen forms go further by giving examples of how to write the letter O verses a zero.
Thursday, May 18, 2006

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