Saturday, 10 July 2010

Putting a form online does not mean...

uploading aWord document so your customers can print it!

I recently had to find and complete a form for my son, to get him a couple of copies of his marriage certificate (a long story). I found the appropriate website with no problems at all, and was pleasantly surprised to see a link to an online form... but it was all downhill from there.

The form opened in Word - and it hadn't been designed for electronic use at all, even though you were asked to send it by email. Rows of "dots" indicated where you needed to answer a question, so you either needed to delete them before you started (not too many!) or sort out the odd line wrapping when you'd finished.

I was short of time, so I'm afraid the "online form" was printed, filled in by hand, and put in the post. Surprisingly, this was also the cheapest option, as I would have been charged an extra £3 for the privilege of having someone phone me to check details if I submitted electronically.

If councils and other government bodies are going to move to working online - and I'm all for it - perhaps they need to invest (just a little) in getting someone to sort out their forms for them. An online form should be just that, but if they really want their customers to complete Word documents, then they should at least be able to do so without all the questions moving around the page as if they had a mind of their own!