Annual Report of the Information Commissioner 2016

Online Forms

Forms must be properly structured and optimised to support the person in completing the form without errors.

Guidelines for the design of forms are as follows:

  • Give the form a clear title. Identify whom the form is for and its purpose at the start.
  • Give instructions in bullet points on the first page.
  • Ensure all terms and conditions are clearly explained in plain English.
  • If a person’s search query results in no hits, suggest some helpful alternatives.
  • Divide the form into clear and logical sections with informative headings and clear numbering.
  • Avoid unnecessary or repeated questions.
  • Make it clear which fields are mandatory and must be completed.
  • Make sure people have enough space for providing answers.
  • Where possible use boxes rather than lines for answers.
  • Create a clear path through the form.
    • Avoid multi-column forms unless necessary.
    • Avoid creating a 'jagged' misaligned appearance.
  • Make sure ‘tick boxes’ are clearly linked to the answer.
  • Ensure that ‘tick box’ borders and answer lines are solid and at least one point wide.
  • Many people move between form fields with the tab key. Use the form layout and if necessary use the tab index attribute in HTML to support this.
  • Make the ‘next’ or ‘submit’ button obvious and distinctive. This is particularly important where it is provided near competing buttons such as ‘back’.
  • Use the simplest way of presenting options for ease of use:
    • It is recommended that for less than seven options, ’tick boxes’ should be provided.
    • For more than seven options, a drop down menu is recommended.

Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach

Digital and Web Based Communication Systems and Services

Online Forms Checklist

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