The bad design of everyday things #3 — Paper Forms

For those who don’t know, The Bad Design of Everyday Things is a project that aims to expose poorly designed objects around us. Things that simply don’t work like they were supposed to, but have become so intensely common in our daily lives we just ignore them.

In this edition, we will talk about one of the most annoying objects of the pre-digital era that (somehow) is still around. A monument for the public services’ bureaucracy, a symbol of deprecated institutions: The Paper Form.

It is quite safe to say something like this already happened to you: You filled a huge form with at least 573 blank spaces and misspelled some word in the last field, and you just can’t help but hate yourself. Or your application or registry was rejected because you misspelled or simply didn’t see that little tiny hidden field in the corner. Or even better, some company asks you to fill the form and retrieve it via post service. Really? Will I have to get out and go to a post office?

Seriously, with very, very few exceptions, there is no need for your company to ask someone to fill a paper. If you need personal information, use an online service — there are dozens out there for you. But before asking your customers to fill a form, ask yourself: does your company really need this information? Because if the answer is no, then you are only screwing with your client’s experience.

Some companies use it because they want to avoid the “robot” attendant. You know who I am talking about: that receptionist whose only job is to spend the whole day asking for people’s personal information. Well, personally I believe it gives a more human touch to the interaction. But even if you think it may get some people uncomfortable, just use some tablets with a simple and concise digital form.

Ok, but let’s say it is inevitable. If you really need a paper form in your service flow, at least design it well, not like these:

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