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 

                      efficiencies

 

 

Intent

 

The purpose of the form and the workflow it supports.  The following should be considered when determining the Intent:  

 

4

Business systems relationship

Primary process served

Secondary process(s) served

Conditional or optional relationships

 

4

Workflow analysis

Flowcharting

Logic branching

Conditional fields (alternative flows)

Required fields / optional fields

Marginal words / routing (copy distribution / notification)

Security / validation

Signatures (physical and electronic)

Legal requirements

Retention requirements  

 

4

Physical handling

Marking engines

     Folding, inserting and mailing

Forms handling devices to be used

 

  Container      Data      Image

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Container

 

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:  

 

4

Design

 

Design analysis

 

Drawing requirements

 

Design software

 

Printer or display requirements (ink / toner / screen color)  

 

4

Forms management (e.g., form number, edition date, form owner, next scheduled review date)

 

Document security techniques

 

Storage and distribution needs  

 

4

Form types – including continuous, unit sets, IEF, Internet, sheets, Print-On-Demand (POD)  

 

4

Production considerations

 

Forms construction (perforations, gluing, die cuts)

 

Number of plies / fastening

 

Paper and other substrates  

 

 

Intent      Data       Image

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Data

 

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 considered:  

 

4

Source (related databases, user resources)  

 

4

Format (masks / restrictions / requirements)  

 

4

Font(s)

 

Font attributes

 

Bar codes

 

MICR / OCR / OMR  

 

4

Database(s) – (as source and/or target)  

 

4

Fields and properties

 

Field Type (text, currency, number, check box, button, date, autofill)

 

Error detection and correction

 

Validations  

 

4

Calculations (dollars / dates)  

 

4

Spell checking  

 

4

Digital signatures  

 

4

Scanning / imaging requirements (if paper)  

 

4

Print display  

 

4

XML

 

Container      Intent      Image

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Image

 

The Marketing aspects, user acceptance and overall effectiveness of the form as it serves its intended uses. Consider the following when designing the Image:

 

4

User interface [access rights, language(s), accessibility requirements (e.g., large type / voice recognition)]

Orientation (left to right, top to bottom, portrait vs. landscape)

Clarity

Instructions for use, help menus

Zoning  

 

4

Corporate image

ID format

Logo(s)  

 

4

Graphics

Use of color

Use of white space

Scanability

Visual appeal

 

 Container      Data     Intent

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