Digital forms: stuff you didn’t know (but should).
Digital forms offer a unique set of advantages over printed forms. But they’re often overlooked and under utilised. Many people aren’t aware of the versatility offered by digital forms. Read on: you may be surprised by the features available…
What is a digital form?
A digital form is any form filled out on screen. The screen could be a computer, phone or tablet, but the underlying technology is the same.
Compared to a printed form on a sheet (or many sheets!) of paper, a digital form saves money. There are no print costs. Imagine printing 1000 forms only to discover a word needs changing. You’d have to get them all printed again! This isn’t an issue with a digital form because you can update and share it with a single mouse click.
So that’s two advantages of digital forms for an organisation. But they also offer benefits to the person filling them in.
For one thing, it’s easy to correct mistakes. There’s no need to cross out errors or use correcting fluid with a digital form. They can even auto correct spelling errors and typos. And you don’t have to worry about unreadable handwriting either.
What type of digital form should you use?
There are a few options for digital forms you should think about. PDF forms offer the best advantages and features for professional marketing people. But read on for a brief overview of two other options first.
Microsoft Word and Excel digital forms
Your organisation may understand the need to create digital forms but need a quick fix. So it makes sense to use Microsoft Office. The software is widespread and there’s a good chance someone in your office is familiar with the tools.
But there are disadvantages. Word is a word processor and Excel is a spreadsheet. They’re good at what they do, but they’re not designed to create digital forms. The form tools are basic and definitely not intuitive.
Digital forms created in Microsoft Office rely on your end user having the software. It’s a reasonable assumption that someone in your workplace has Microsoft software. But that’s not true of everybody.
In our experience, it’s too easy for the end user to ‘break’ Word digital forms. They can move or delete important details by accident. These forms can be tricky to use on a mobile phone or tablet, which don’t have all the features of the desktop software.
Online digital forms such as Google Forms
There are free online digital forms services. The most accessible one is Google Forms which allows you to create simple surveys. But you can’t brand them and they look generic.
There are commercial providers who let you create forms on their site. You’ll need to set up an account, which often means signing up for a subscription. You’ll pay monthly to keep your work live, which isn’t a good solution if you want one or two digital forms.
PDF digital forms
PDFs are our preferred format for digital forms. They’re versatile, easy to use and offer lots of features not available in other formats.
We design PDF digital forms in exactly the same way as printed forms. This means your layout, typefaces and brand can all appear exactly how you want. You don’t need to compromise the look of your form for the sake of technical considerations.
This also means that we can tailor your form to suit your end user. We can create something colourful, lively and engaging to engage a consumer audience. Or take a formal approach for a digital form aimed at business users.
The advantages of PDF digital forms
Unlike Word or Excel, PDFs have features that offer real benefits. For example, there’s uniformity. Your form looks the same no matter what device you view it on. A digital form displayed on a phone will look exactly the same when it’s viewed on a tablet, a desktop and a laptop. And if you prefer a print copy, you can still print it out and complete it by hand.
PDF digital forms can offer absolute control. You set form fields as needed, and your end user can’t change them. You can:
- set fields that are compulsory;
- add interactivity, for example a button to email the form once complete;
- include tick boxes or multiple-choice answers to make the form easy to fill in.
There’s built-in security if you need it. A PDF digital form has the option to add an encrypted digital signature. This means that once a signature is on the form it’s locked and uneditable. So PDF the ideal format for documents that need formal verification and sign-off.
Convert your printed forms
Designing PDF digital forms uses the same software, tools and skills as print forms. This means you maintain your brand across your print and digital media. What’s more, if you already have printed forms, they are adaptable into digital PDF forms. Both print PDFs or original InDesign artwork are convertible to digital.
Versatility and adaptability
You can email your digital form to its recipients, or host it on your website. Your recipients then have the option to fill in the form in their browser, or to download it to complete offline.
Another feature of digital forms in PDF format is full control over the text boxes. You can set a character or line limit, or restrict entries to numbers only. But a big advantage is that you can make text boxes ‘scrollable’. If someone needs to type in a lot of text they can do so even in a small text box.
Digital forms allow interactive features that are impossible in printed forms. One such feature is a tool tip roll-over. When your user hovers their mouse over the question, you can set a pop-up tip or suggestion to help them answer.
Another useful interactive feature is a navigation button. You can use these to direct the user to different sections of the form depending on how they answer a question. This makes it easier for them to fill in a complex form.
Finally, a digital form is easy to change as you fill it in. And you never have to worry about running out of ink…
As you’ve read, there are lots of advantages offered by digital forms in PDF format. But this doesn’t make them expensive. The fees for creating a digital form can be marginal compared to a traditional print form. Give us a call at Toast if you have any questions. We’re more than happy to discuss the benefits of digital forms, and will work with you to get the best results.
Get in touch – discuss your digital form with Toast today.
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