A Series on Form Design
We’re re-posting articles from a blog series we’re doing a on good form design. These articles were written by myself, or Rachel Wright and will focus on the principles of good form design and how they apply to Jira. We’ll help you understand how form design can help or hinder data collection; how to write good questions; how to better structure the flow of your forms, choose the right field types, and create forms that users actually want to complete. We’ll explore the inbuilt form capabilities of Jira and Jira Service Desk, as well as how you can expand your capacity by using a forms add-on (note that I am with ProForma).
Articles in the series will be posted weekly and will cover:
Form Design Matters
Let’s just admit it. Forms aren’t sexy. They aren’t exciting or innovative. Few people would call them fun. They are, however, important and few business tools have proven to be as enduring.
The move from paper to electronic forms, and then to online forms solved a lot of problems. We no longer have to contend with illegible hand-writing and necessary fields that were left blank. But the advent of online forms also presents a challenge. How can we best use the tools we have – validation, conditional logic, auto-formatting – to truly optimize our forms so that teams get the information they need and users have a painless, possibly even pleasant, experience?
Forms and screens that serve as electronic forms (I’ll be using the terms forms and screens interchangeably) are more than just vehicles for data collection. They are the first step that gets the ball rolling on most business processes. They are also one of the primary ways we interact with our internal and external customers. And they are a mechanism for influencing (whether we want to or not) human behavior. Combining forms with a powerful workflow engine like Jira is a great way to get work done. Ensure that your Jira forms are well-designed and you’ll do more than get work done. You’ll save resources, improve relationships and influence user actions in the right direction.
Your Jira Forms Drive Data Quality
We create forms for collecting data, and the quality of the form will go along way towards determining the quality of the data. With the creation of every issue type and every request type, you are making decisions – which fields to include on which screens, what order to list the fields in, what justifies the creation of a new custom field – that will impact the quality of data you receive. In turn, getting better data will allow you to:
Forms are the Basis of Relationships
A form can be the start of a beautiful friendship. Or not. When you consider how many business process start with a user filling a form, it’s amazing that more attention isn’t given to form design as part of managing customer relations.
Most business processes start with a form. That means that the form is often your one and only chance to make a first impression. In some cases, government bureaucracies come to mind, a form or forms may be the only way customers interact with an organization. If the forms are bad, the relationship won’t be good. Bad forms can result in users postponing, abandoning and sometimes bypassing key processes.
On the other hand, well-designed, intuitive, user-friendly forms can reduce friction, build rapport and help set appropriate expectations. The improved service that results from good data collection will inspire confidence. Your forms build your reputation and promote your brand.
Form Design Influences Behavior
How we design our forms – the words we choose, the presence or absence of default values, the order of choice options – influence users decisions. If that sounds far fetched consider the image below illustrating organ donation enrollment in Europe.
Source: Why BI?
The stark difference between the rates for the countries listed on the left and those listed on the right isn’t due to culture or religion. It’s the difference between opting in and opting out. Want to increase employee participation your retirement contribution program? Change the form? Want to see more customers opt for a higher value product? Change the form.
We’ll be discussing how you can use wording, question framing, defaults and choice architecture to influence user choices in a future article. And if you’re thinking, “Wait, that’s manipulative. I don’t want to do that,” we’ll also discuss how you can mitigate the influence of your questions on users choices (though it’s not possible to be 100% neutral).
Where Do We Go From Here?
Once you’re convinced that form design matters, what’s the next step? Start by reframing how you think about the form process.
The Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government recently introduced the WISER framework for form design. It lays out specific steps to go through in identifying the form’s audience, providing appropriate instructions, using a clear layout, etc.
There are two big things you should notice about the WISER framework. First, the framework focuses on the user’s point of view. Who are the users? Why should they complete the form? What information will they need? What language will they understand?
Second, the framework tells us to test and repeat. You wouldn’t adopt a “set it and forget it” attitude towards developing software, so don’t do that with your forms either. Form design needs to be iterative.
So now that we know that, where do we start? Watch for the next article where we’ll discuss the layout and flow of good forms.
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