Four Components of a Form
Every form has four major components: 1) Intent, 2) Container, 3) Data, and 4) Image. Each component varies in degree of importance and emphasis. Focusing on only one component usually results in a less effective form that adds cost elsewhere in the workflow. For example, focusing on only one element (at the expense of the others) can result in additional design, management and deployment costs, bad marketing and potential legal problems.
Within a “typical” IT function, forms are frequently viewed only as front-ends to databases. This can result in process errors (which drive up costs) as the user struggles to find ways to use the form for other purposes, such as eCommerce, mailing, remittance processing and records retention. It is the function, and the duty, of the forms professional to become expert in all areas of the form.
The Four Major Components of a Form
Intent - purpose, workflow requirements and legal requirements
Container - the static images, substrates
and screen designs that make up the blank “form”
Data - fields, bar codes, MICR, OCR, OMR and database elements that represent the
information displayed or collected
using the container
Image - how the form interacts with its users, the Marketing image portrayed, and processing
of the form and the workflow it supports.
The following should be considered when determining the Intent:
The static image of lines, boxes, text, graphics and other elements that
comprise the reusable part of the form. It is typically developed by the designer and locked so it cannot
be changed by the form user. The following should be considered
when constructing the Container:
All the variable information input by the form users and/or database
downloads (for electronic formats). Typically temporary to the Container,
particularly within electronic forms, but once entered, Data is
permanently a part of a paper form. When defining Data content, the following should be
The Marketing aspects, user acceptance and overall effectiveness of the form as it serves its intended uses. Consider the following when designing the Image: