Functional Tips for Creating Better SharePoint Forms

When designing business processes, it is essential to ensure the collection and rendering of data are as effective as possible.

The focus should be on ensuring you are collecting the correct data in a way that’s simple and complete. Incorporated into this should be powerful validation mechanisms to make sure you collect the right information first time around.

SharePoint forms are an effective way of doing this.

Forms Basics — Refresher

When it comes to collecting and storing content in SharePoint, forms are essential. Through forms, users can collect the list data itself, or define metadata describing other content such as documents or images.

For example, you could create a simple list that is used to collect information about your customer contacts. Instead of using the out of the box user interface in SharePoint, you could create a custom form that would collect the data, provide validations to ensure you’re collecting the correct information and of course, make sure the look and feel meets your specific needs.

Don’t Settle for ‘Good’

SharePoint is popular for good reason. As a platform, it can do a lot: build an intranet, make use of secure document management, bring everything into a central hub and aid collaboration across your organization.

It’s easy to create new lists and libraries, you can create forms to capture data to a list, or apply metadata to additional content, and you have yourself a powerful, central information space for your employees.

But is good really “good enough” today?

The way technology is going, your business can’t afford to rest on an elementary execution of its solutions. To keep up with your competitors, you need to make sure your technology is operating to the highest standards, enabling your employees to work at an optimal level of productivity.

SharePoint forms is a great example of where you can sharpen your tools and further improve your business processes.

The ‘Fun’ in Function

Too often when we are building our business processes we sacrifice function over user experience.

Yes, function—making sure the right fields are available on our form, for example—is the priority, however user experience should not be discounted.

Take, for example, a standard form you might create where your employees can submit vacation requests to the HR department. In the form, you would likely make sure to include fields that capture important information, like names and dates, etc., along with views in SharePoint that organize the requests by category and status for easy access and insight.

Is there a process where your users are told that their form has been received? Will they be able to track the progress of their request?

These are not just superficial aspects of user experience—they will ultimately reduce delays in the process of submitting the request and reduce the added questions/complaints/confusion that will inevitably appear.

Create Sharepoint Forms That Are Functional as Well as User-Friendly

Below are some key tips to help you create great forms:

1.  Only include necessary form fields

Sometimes your forms might contain fields that are not altogether relevant for the business purpose of the form, or fields are included in the form that are more appropriate for another party (for example, the person the form is being submitted to).

Irrelevant fields are confusing to your users and can lead to delays in the process of submitting it. Reducing the number of questions that appear on the form can help, and you can also hide fields on a form so the user experience is simpler and more personalized.

2.  Highlight required fields

It’s up to you to define the required fields in your form. That way, if a user makes a mistake on a required field or forgets to enter their information they are alerted immediately and can makes the necessary changes.

What’s more, certain data will be important if your form is part of a wider workflow, or if you want to automatically add metadata to make an information search easier. You may want to add more validation other than just a regular data input or only require a validation based on choices captured earlier in the form.

3.  Present your fields in logical fashion

Depending on the length of your form, you may need to give some thought to the layout of the fields. If there are a lot of fields to be filled out, putting certain kinds of questions together (e.g. personal information) can help organize the form to make it as clear as possible.

4.  Include a feedback automation – so users know their submission was received

After a form has been submitted, do your users get taken to another area of the website/intranet, or are they brought back to a default view of a list? You can easily fix this issue by creating a ‘thank you’ page or a page letting users know their form was submitted successfully, or if they need to do anything further (if the form is part of a wider workflow).

5.  Build a landing page where your form can live

To create good user experiences, you need to put yourself into the shoes of the user. How will they make a new entry into your newly designed form and how will they find that information if they need to later?

Creating a landing page or dashboard that contains all the information related to the purpose of the form is a great way of putting the form into context. So, if it’s a vacation request form, you can check on its progress.

6.  Save progress as you go

On long and complex forms, give the user the opportunity to save their progress to ensure they don’t lose data before submitting it.

7.  Consider the form factor of the user filling in the form

It’s important to understand who and where a user will be filling in a form, will they be using a mobile device, will it be on desktop, will it be offline?

Each of these can weigh in on the design of the form, or whether you should use a responsive form design over a specific form factor.

8.  Go mobile

Does the user need to fill the form in offline? By providing mobile options your employees can fill in their data wherever they are and drastically increase response rates and user satisfaction.

Nintex Empowers Your Users

SharePoint forms are important because they simplify various processes in your business.

For example, employing forms on your website to handle customer queries automatically would reduce the amount of questions you receive over email and the phone and ensure you collect the data you need to route the query effectively either directly, or with an automated process.

Internally, an intuitive form will make entering information into your databases quicker to complete and reduce the chance of inaccuracies.

Nintex Forms for SharePoint is a powerful yet simple-to-use SharePoint forms designer that makes creating and presenting your SharePoint forms exactly how you want them to function without sacrificing user experience.

 

To find out more about how Nintex Forms can help your organization, contact us today.

 

Alex Burton

Alex Burton is VP of Product at Nintex. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 20 years holding various roles spanning professional services, project management and product management. Alex has extensive experience in the Microsoft stack, specifically around SharePoint, Project Server, Dynamics CRM and Azure. Follow him on Twitter: @alexanderb