How to Save Big Dollars Implementing Online Smart Forms

As web users, we've gotten very used to seeing online forms. Today as you browsed social media, visited your dentist's website to double check the address for your next appointment, hopped over to your friend's blog to see what's new in their life, and perused the web for cat videos during your free time; chances are you came across several different kinds of online forms.

These interactive forms are familiar to us all, but how much do you know about online smart forms (the high-powered, next-generation cousin to traditional online forms)?

In this article we’ll walk you through the major differences between standard online forms and smart forms, how you can increase your efficiency online using smart forms, and most importantly how you can save big dollars by implementing smart forms within your organisation.

What are Smart Forms?

In 2008, the Australian Government’s Information Management Office identified the use of smart forms as a best practice initiative. The benefits of smart forms were quickly noticed by other agencies, with officials quickly establishing a special unit to help smart forms proliferate throughout the Australian Government. Recently the Australian Department of Finance and Deregulation began promoting smart form solutions as part of a massive Australian Government Online Service Point program which goes to show how seriously this technology is being taken.

The benefits of smart forms

It's clear that the Australian Government has found smart forms to be valuable, but what does that mean for the rest of us? Let's take a look at how smart forms have revolutionised online information gathering processes.

1. More accurate information

Avoka, a leading smart forms provider has categorised electronic forms into three categories to help demonstrate the effectiveness of smart forms. This includes:

As part of this trio, print forms leave much to be desired in terms of their accuracy and efficiency with users commonly leaving fields empty or filling in incorrect information. Additionally, deciphering handwriting is a task that unnecessarily takes up time and resources, and most people will agree is quite challenging.

Out of all of the options, print forms are the least reliable.

Fillable forms however certainly take a step in the right direction, but this technology can only handle basic information, and without communication with back end systems tend to be less robust.

Enter smart forms, which allow users to fill in required information at the request of an organisation in a simple and easy to navigate and understand format. A major breakthrough in online communications.

2. More effective forms

Smart forms allow you to join together data from your forms with metadata about the forms themselves. Let's analyse this in layman's terms: Metadata is defined as “a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.” In this case, “other data” are the words and numbers that users put into form fields. By making these connections, we can gain insight into how people interact with our forms.

For example, this bridge between user-provided data and metadata can help us determine why “people who filled in Section D abandon as many forms without submitting as they actually submit”, and “sections B and E are almost always submitted together rather than just one or the other”. Insights such as this can be used to streamline forms and tweak elements that are confusing or cumbersome to users, ensuring future form developments are greatly enhanced.

3. A conduit for two-way communication

Typically, we think of filling out a form as a one-sided process. We provide the information requested and after we've completed our form we receive an email or some other type of follow-up communication letting us know that our data has been accepted.

Unlike traditional forms, smart forms provide an opportunity for real time updates. As an example, recruitment companies use job application portals that allow applicants to track their application progress after they've been submitted. In this case a user can see when a recruitment manager is reviewing their application, and get an idea of when they’ll an receive update from the person in charge of hiring. Real-time updates such as this save organisations considerable time and resources following up eager applicants who could otherwise simply visit an application portal to see how their application is progressing instead of reaching out to hiring managers via phone or email.

4. Less manual labour

If you've completed a major transaction such as buying a home, you'll know that the volume of paperwork required to be completed can be quite overwhelming. Completing paper forms in situations such as this can be subject to basic misspellings, be manipulated, or misunderstood, and throw the entire process into disarray.

Because smart forms are connected to sophisticated data banks, they can recognise the type of input needed for certain fields (i.e. a smart form can anticipate that numbers are required in a D.O.B field). In summary, smart forms save you time and allow for fewer mistakes, ensuring less human intervention.

5. Responsive on all devices

Smart forms are capable of displaying perfectly on desktop, smartphone, and tablet devices. Although this may seem like a small feature, or a given in for modern websites, responsiveness allows users to easily move through forms without getting confused or lost. Without responsive features, certain parts of your forms can get cut off, leaving room for errors.

To learn more about responsive web design, visit this article.

6. All these features are great...but how do they save you money?

There are a number of reasons why the Australian Government and numerous private sector clients favour smart forms over other more traditional means of information collection. This includes:

Conclusion

So if you’re not convinced by now that smart forms are a great way for your organisation to save time, money, and enhance the way you do business online, feel free to get in contact with our team of smart form specialists for a confidential discussion. We’ve worked with organisations across many different industries and Government sectors to assist them to transform the way they interact with their customers online, and would love to hear how we can help.