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Is it good form?

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Credit application form

Is it good form?

July 4, 2012

One of the great challenges within the registry world is (and always has been) the design of forms.  The overwhelming majority of corporate registries call for statutorily required information to be submitted on a form.

The design of paper forms, the legislative prescription of forms and the modern digitization of forms all present the registry with opportunities and challenges.

Good form design allows for consistent and repeatable compliance with the requirements of legislation.  In registries that are paper based a well-designed form enables the registrar to quickly ascertain that the information required is complete.  For those registries where information is keyed from paper to a database, well-designed forms enable more accurate and timely keying.  Simple things such as the fields on the form matching the order of those required to be keyed into the database enable more efficient processing.

In more developed jurisdictions where no paper is required the challenges are different.  Here the issues relate to the usability of the form online. We are increasingly seeing standardization of the online form experience. This standardization is being driven in part by private sector websites offering easy to use services (such as online banking) and in part by a desire to reduce the costs of supporting online services.  A poorly designed online form will inevitably result in a call to a Contact Centre.

Examples such as the ELMER project in Norway that has issued standards for government agencies and their forms.  The ELMER research asserts (and we agree wholeheartedly.

“If the user does not understand the electronic form, he will need support. If mistakes are made, the answers must be corrected. If the user gives up, he will submit the paper version and the receiver has to register once more the information already given on the form.

But if the user understands and appreciate the web form, the cost will be next to nothing”


The United Kingdom are also doing some excellent work on the usability of web sites and the clarity of the instructions and experience of interacting online.

New Zealand continues to push the development of the online interaction. Forms as they were originally designed become less useful in the online world.  The modern registry is interested in collecting data elements (such as a name or address) and storing these elements within the register.

Many registries use technology to “recreate” a paper-based experience by taking the data elements and reconstructing them in a way that they represent a form. The Australian Investments and Securities Commission (ASIC) or the Brønnøysund Register Centre in Norway do this for example. A PDF document is created from the information held within the registry.

We think the natural evolution of the registry will see less emphasis on the recreation of forms and as the legislation catches up we will see more data and less form.

Truly and example of substance over form perhaps?

You can read more on forms and usability here: