Good form design can change everything!

Many consumer contracts reach consumers as part of an application form. While most attorneys will not consider the form as part of the contract, it often is. After all, the form describes the product and price – the essential terms in a contract of sale. With POPI around the corner, forms are becoming more important. Here is why:

  • POPI requires that you must inform your customer about what personal information you are collecting and why. The form can do that.
  • POPI also requires that you must ensure that the personal information you have is of a high quality. Many data quality issues are created by ambiguous questions or a lack of guidance for the customer who is completing the form. Good forms can do that too.
  • People hate long forms, yet most businesses ask for information they don’t need ‘just in case’. POPI requires that you only collect the personal information that you actually need. As good an excuse as any to eliminate those extra fields.


Whether you’re using printed or online forms, here are 10 ways to improve your form design today!

#1: More white space please!

You probably don’t have enough white space around the fields on your form, especially if it is a printed form. White space is one key element that you can use to make a form look more appealing and easier to complete. The form will also feel shorter. Surrounding information with blank space emphasises its importance.

#2: Choose a legible font size.

This sounds easy enough, but you really have to consider the needs of your audience. The average reader will be able to read 10 point type without too much effort.

#3: Avoid using all caps.

Lower case letters with their ascenders and descenders (the portions of letters that extend above and below the mean line of a font) create more distinctive outlines than capitals and are easier to read. Upper case letters all appear square, which means that the reader has to work extra hard to read them.

#4: Don’t use too much bold and italics.

While bold text is very useful for emphasis it decreases legibility when large strings of text are presented in bold. The dense black type tends to create after-images, noticeable as bright glowing areas between lines. Italics are less legible in continuous text and low literacy audiences will find that they make the text look blurry. Rather find other ways to emphasise important terms. But, always remember that if everything is emphasised nothing is emphasised.

#5: Avoid centering text.

Centering text in the middle of the page is a problem for less skilled readers because they tend to lose the flow of text and there is no visual rhythm to reading the text.

#6: Use the optimum line length of between 60 and 65 characters per line.

The minimum line length for comfort is about 40 characters.

#7: Avoid full justification.

Align your text flush left with a jagged right edge. This also makes for an easier read.

#8: Choose text and background colours with enough contrast.

Most readers fare best with black text on white background – whether on screen or on paper. If you use colour for emphasis consider how it will look if the reader prints the form. Consider using a darker colour for text and a lighter colour for lines or blocks to decrease the clutter on the form.

#9: Use graphics, illustrations and screens carefully.

Graphics and illustrations are often useful in explaining a concept, but they can just as easily clutter the page. You should place them carefully so that they do not interrupt the normal flow of reading. Avoid any images or screens behind the text as this will make it hard to read − especially to low literate audiences.

#10: Choose lines over blocks in most cases.

Form designers often use blocks in an effort to encourage the reader to write legibly. Research has shown that providing blocks doesn’t have this effect and in fact slows down the speed at which the information is provided and captured. Using lines is much more efficient. Blocks are useful for numerical information such as ID numbers and birthdays.
If you are wondering why your form is not performing? (get it?) We can test it for you, and help you design a form that improves the user’s experience, and therefore the quality of the data you receive. Give us a call.