8 Tips for Translating a Paper Process to a Web Form Process
Today’s post was provided by Maggie Tharp, FormAssembly’s Content Marketing Specialist, as part of our series on form solutions and best practices.
You’d think that by now, we’d be free from paper forms. While the idea of going paperless has been popular for years, it’s far from a reality for many companies. According to data from the EPA and the Clean Air Council, compiled in this infographic from PaperKarma and Catalog Spree, businesses in the U.S. use about 4 million tons of paper each year, amounting to about 10,000 sheets a year for each employee.
Even going paper-light, such as switching from paper forms to a web form solution, can put a huge dent in how much paper your office uses and the amount you spend on printing and supplies. In addition, making this shift allows you to:
Reduce the possibility of lost information
Cut down on the amount of physical storage in your office
Reduce time spent doing manual data entry
Have a positive impact on the environment
But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Below we’ve outlined 8 steps you can take for a successful digital form implementation.
1. Decide on a Project Manager
For any large-scale project to work, someone needs to take the lead on it. Many people may be involved, but it’s key to have one leader who sets goals and follows through on them.
2. Identify the Processes You Want to Transform
What processes translate to a digital form? Pretty much anything.
Paper order forms, invoices that you usually fax to clients, paper enrollment forms and applications, the list goes on. Is there one paper form that is becoming especially onerous? Maybe your entire company needs a form makeover. Whatever it is, get those forms in order so you can see how much work is ahead of you.
3. Understand What Your Current Processes Are Costing You
You wouldn’t be considering getting away from paper forms if you weren’t experiencing some negative symptoms. The question is: What is the impact of your outdated paper form process and how serious is it? Setting baselines for how long your paper processes are taking, how much money they’re costing you, how much time you spend on double entry of your data, etc., will help you later on when you’re trying to measure the positive results of going digital.
4. Don’t Be Bound by Paper Form Conventions
A trap many people fall into is thinking that web forms are basically paper forms, just recreated on a digital interface. This results in clunky, cluttered, unattractive forms with very little attention to basic usability and design.
When turning your paper forms into web forms, remember to:
- Allow ample white space. There’s no need to crowd fields in web forms.
- Stick to one column. Again, when you’re not trying to save paper, you can spread out the information a bit.
- Separate forms into multiple pages. Web forms don’t cost more per page. Take advantage of this.
- Don’t think you need to show every field to every form user. Use fields that appear conditionally, based on form inputs.
- Make fields different sizes, based on how long the expected input is. Not all fields need to be the same length, as they often are on a paper form.
5. Replace Data Entry With Integrations
A big benefit of implementing a web form solution is the elimination of any duplication of work (e.g. unneeded data entry). With the right integrations, your form tool should be able to do the work for you by automatically sending information to the correct systems, from CRMs to payment processors.
6. Implement Conditional Email Notifications
Who needs to be involved with each form you plan to create? In addition to transforming a paper form into a digital one, you need to transform the communication around those forms.
If your form tool allows it, set up conditional email notifications so form responses are immediately sent to the right person or people in your organization.
7. Take Advantage of Branding & Design Options
Paper forms can be branded to match your company identity, but color printing costs can add up, and it’s often easier to default to boring black and white forms. With digital forms, you’re not bound by the same constraints, and you can branch out quite a bit in terms of design. Do a little research and find how design and usability can improve your forms on the FormAssembly blog.
8. Track the Effects of Your Transformation
Your switch to digital forms will be that much more meaningful if you can track your progress and understand how the change impacted your organization. If you followed step #3, you already set your baseline and have an understanding of how your old paper-based processes were slowing you down and costing you money. Use this to calculate the magnitude of your change and fully justify your switch to web forms.
If you’re sick and tired of keeping track of paper forms, a web form solution can be your out. Remember to put in place a solid plan for your transition so the change goes over smoothly and you’re able to show concrete examples of the benefits of switching from paper to web forms.
Want to learn more about how forms could transform your organization? Let’s set up a call with a Solutions Analyst to see how forms could work for you.