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Form content

Your service’s requirements and the user needs must be fully understood before designing a new digital form, or updating an existing one. You should do user research to map the user journeys to decide what the form’s content should be.

When developing the form, you should do the following:

Identify all the information you need to collect

Use your research findings to make a list of the information your form needs to collect from users. This becomes the basis for designing the form questions.

Review the form questions

Once you know what information to collect, validate this using a tool called a ‘question protocol’. This step helps you identify which form questions you need. It can be used to reduce the size of a form.

For each question, the protocol should be used to check that you know:

  • why you need the information to deliver your service
  • what you’ll do with it
  • which users need to give you the information
  • how you’ll check the information is accurate
  • how to keep the information up to date and secure

If a question asks for more than one piece of information they all should be reviewed against the above list.

Keep your forms as simple as possible. Only ask what's needed to run your service.

Each form question has costs

Each question has a cost. Only ask for information that is needed for your service.

A financial cost is incurred by the organisation publishing the form, who must process and store the answers. A time cost and a cognitive cost is passed on to users for every extra question they have to complete.

Clearly explain why you’re asking for sensitive information

Users care about their privacy and information security. If you must ask for sensitive information, make sure you explain why it is needed. You should do this whenever you ask for sensitive information, even if you do this several times in the form.

Form question content design

When you know what information to collect, you should follow content best practices to design the questions that should be asked.

You should work with a content designer to create form content that is written in plain English. This helps users understand what is being asked.

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