Forms are unavoidable if you’re engaged in anything related to health and wellness. One of the great things your website can do for you is to make those forms more convenient for your patients or clients and less time-consuming for your team. Your website should have a contact form, if nothing else, but there are many other forms you might want to use:
- New patient form
- Membership form
- Newsletter subscription form
- White paper download form
- Job application form
- Appointment booking form
- Class signup form
- Insurance forms
- Legal releases and acknowledgements
You’re probably thinking of several more that you currently have or would like to have. If your clientele needs forms in multiple languages or you have partners or providers who need their own specific forms, the number of forms needed can multiply quickly.
Keeping them all online makes sense. But this can be done well or badly. Consider the following things when you decide how to put your forms online.
The right places for forms
The most important form at your website — the call to action, or the one you most want people to fill out — should be readily visible to most of your visitors. It can be on the home page above the fold, and in the sidebar above the fold on most of your pages.
But a home page cluttered with lots of forms or boxes leading to those forms will be a confusing and visually unappealing page. So if you have lots of forms that need to be filled out, it makes sense to corral them all on one page where they can be downloaded easily.
The best formats for forms
The next question is how to create your forms. If you have lots of forms already as physical sheets of paper, you can scan them, create PDFs, and upload them as documents on your website. If you already have good PDFs of your forms, this is the easiest, fastest, and therefore the least expensive option.
PDFs allow patients to download the forms, fill them out, and bring them with them into the office. This can be especially helpful for people who may need help reading or understanding the forms, and it saves time at check in.
On the other hand, it doesn’t work well for people who don’t have access to a printer or to a computer that allows them to download forms.
Interactive forms let you have the information sent to you ahead of time, which can be more efficient. They’re also easier to keep up to date. However, people tire easily when filling out online forms. Any form with more than eight fields to fill in will discourage people. You may also have security issues with online forms.
We’ve done projects where we have both types of forms. Be sure to budget for some extra work if you choose this option, but it does give you the best of both worlds.
Are changes needed?
In our experience, clients often realize when they start looking at their forms that changes need to be made. The terminology might have changed, laws and regulations may be different now from when you put your forms together, or the forms might have become unreadable through long duplication of duplicates.
Make all those decisions before you start uploading those PDFs or having interactive forms created.
Forms can be frustrating for people if they’re confusing. The key to good forms, then, is to make sure that your forms are not confusing.
Consider these questions:
- Are form fields in the order that people expect? Just putting last name first on your form can increase both frustration and errors. Many people also use automatic form-filling apps, which may not work if you use an unusual order.
- Is it possible to misunderstand questions in your form? It’s easy to miss ambiguities when you’re writing because you know what you mean. Have your forms tested by people who are not familiar with your practice or business.
- Are you using common terms? We once encountered the question, “What languages do you aud?” in a form. While the people who made the form know that this means, “What languages can you understand when you hear them, even if you don’t speak them easily?”, most people will have no idea what that question means. Check the forms for jargon that is comfortable to you but not for your clients.
- Is it clear which fields are required? Use an asterisk or the word “required” so people don’t find themselves being sent back repeatedly to fill in things they left blank.
- Do you need a Submit button? “Submit” isn’t the friendliest term for the button that sends the form to you. Consider using “Send” or “Yes, please, set up my account!” instead. Use “Submit” if you believe that is the clearest phrasing.
Calm people’s fears.
Make sure that your webpage tells users exactly how their forms will be used. This might include information on who will see the forms, why you are asking the questions, or how they will be stored. You may also need to reassure people that the forms are private or that the information will not be sold or shared.
Don’t think that having a privacy notice or Terms and Conditions page keeps you from having to provide this information. Very few people ever read such pages. The information your clients need to feel confident about sending the form should be on the same page as the form itself.
Your web forms may seem like a small detail that you can take care of after your website is built, but actually your forms can be a cause of frustration or a welcoming part of your website. They can streamline your workflow or make things worse. And they can easily add to the cost of your website’s build if you don’t plan ahead.