How to Design a Data Entry Form

Here are a few ideas for designing cost effective data entry forms that promote accurate and uniform data collection. Well designed forms are easier to fill out and easier to scan, key, and OCR.

Keep it simple and short to encourage more responses.

Mail in forms: Use a single card with no folds whenever possible as this saves money on back end processing. If customers are submitting personal data you may want to consider a bi-fold mailer with a peel off sealer strip. The fold protects the customer’s personal data and increases responses. There is an added charge for unfolding during data entry but the increase in customer responses makes it a worthwhile consideration.

Scanner registration points are a must for any form that is designed to be scanned: A cross, triangle or filled square allows the scanner to orient the form and produce uniform scans.

Leave off the graphics and pretty fonts, they look nice but they ultimately discourage individuals from filling out forms and make forms harder to process. A simple form equals more completions and more accurate data.

Each person’s handwriting is different, try to constrain users to box grids instead of open lines of text.

Standard Data Entry Field Sizes: These field sizes will accommodate 98% of users.

Name with middle initial: 25 characters

Street address: 25 characters

City: 15 characters

State: 2 characters

Zip: 9 characters with dash

E-mail address: 30-35 characters

For forms with more than ten questions, show the question number on the form, right next to field. This will make things much easier on the back end data entry. Be sure to number check boxes as well.

Standardize responses with check boxes. Don’t count on the data entry technician to interpret your data. Check boxes make things easier for the person filling out the form and make it easier to quantify the data collected. Check boxes can also be read electronically which saves time and money.

Avoid stickers on forms, they get stuck in scanners and sorters and end up costing more than they save. In cases where your form needs a membership number or other client specific information, spend the money up front to print out custom forms, you will make it up on the back end.

Barcodes and Check Digits should be used for know data fields. In cases where you are creating a form where some fields are pre-filled with user data, use barcodes with check digits to ensure 100% accuracy.

Form format numbers: Include a format number on your form like FRM1-B. When changes are made to the form, the form number will need to be updated. This allows data entry staff and data entry software to easily recognize changed format and account for differences in forms.

Below is an example of a simple reply device for donations:

Design Data Entry Form page