10 Paper Form Design Best Practices

Paper forms are still used in many situations. If you're designing one, make sure to follow these 10 best practices.

Paper forms are an essential part of doing business. They’re used for everything from collecting customer information to taking inventory. But just because paper forms are commonplace doesn’t mean they’re easy to design. In fact, designing an effective paper form requires a good deal of thought and planning.

To help you design better paper forms, we’ve put together a list of 10 best practices. By following these best practices, you can be sure that your paper forms are effective and efficient.

1. Use a grid

A grid helps to organize information and makes it easier for the eye to scan. It also provides a consistent framework that can be used to align elements on the page.

When designing a paper form, start by creating a basic layout using a grid. Then, add in the necessary form fields and other elements. Be sure to leave enough space between each element so that it’s easy to fill out the form.

If you’re not sure how to create a grid, there are plenty of resources available online. Simply search for “paper form design grid” to get started.

2. Use the right typeface and font size

The typeface you use on your paper form should be easy to read, even from a distance. And the font size should be large enough that people don’t have to strain their eyes to read it.

This is especially important for older adults, who may have vision problems. But it’s also important for younger people, who may be reading your form while they’re doing something else (like walking or driving).

So what’s the right typeface and font size? That depends on a few factors, including the length of your form and the amount of text on each page. In general, though, you should use a sans serif typeface (like Arial or Helvetica) in a size that’s at least 12 points.

3. Make sure your form is scannable

When a form is scanned, the scanner reads the document from top to bottom and left to right. This means that any information you want the scanner to pick up needs to be in this order.

To make your form scannable, start by putting the most important information at the top of the form. Then, use clear headings and labels to break up the text so it’s easy to scan. Finally, use white space to separate different sections of the form.

By following these tips, you can be sure that your form will be easy to scan and the information will be captured accurately.

4. Use white space to separate sections

When you have a lot of text on a page, it can be difficult for the reader to process all of the information. By breaking up the text into smaller sections and using white space to separate them, you make the form much easier to read and understand.

This is especially important if you have a long form with many questions. Breaking up the questions into smaller groups and using white space to separate them will make the form much less daunting for the reader.

Additionally, using white space to separate sections can help to highlight certain parts of the form that you want the reader to pay attention to. For example, if you have a section where the reader needs to fill in their contact information, you may want to use more white space around that section to make it stand out.

5. Use color sparingly

Color is a great way to add visual interest to a paper form and make it more engaging. However, if you use too much color, it can be overwhelming and actually make the form less readable.

It’s important to find a balance when using color in your paper form design. Use it to highlight important elements, such as the call to action, but don’t go overboard. Stick to a limited color palette, and use light colors for the background and dark colors for the text.

6. Use icons and illustrations

Icons and illustrations are a great way to add visual interest to a paper form and help guide the user’s eye to important information. They can also be used to break up long blocks of text, making the form more visually appealing and easier to scan.

When selecting icons and illustrations for your paper form, be sure to choose ones that are simple and easy to understand. Complex or busy graphics can be confusing and make it difficult for users to find the information they’re looking for.

7. Keep it simple

When it comes to paper forms, less is almost always more. The goal of a paper form should be to collect the necessary information as quickly and efficiently as possible, without overwhelming the user with too many questions or fields.

To keep your paper form design simple, start by only including the absolutely essential information that you need to collect. Then, break down each question into its simplest form. For example, instead of asking “What is your date of birth?” try “Month/Day/Year.”

Finally, use white space and visual cues to guide the user’s eye from one question to the next. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your paper form is easy to understand and quick to fill out.

8. Don’t use abbreviations or jargon

When you use abbreviations or jargon, you’re assuming that the person filling out the form knows what you’re talking about. But what if they don’t? They’ll either have to look up the meaning of the word (which takes time) or they’ll just guess at what it means (which could lead to errors).

It’s much better to just write out the full words so that there’s no confusion. Yes, it might make the form a bit longer, but it’ll be much easier to understand.

9. Design for mobile devices

With the rise of mobile devices, more and more people are using them to fill out paper forms. This means that your form needs to be designed in a way that is easy to use on a small screen.

Some things to keep in mind when designing for mobile devices include:

– Use large, easy-to-read fonts
– Make sure fields are big enough to be easily filled out
– Use clear and concise instructions
– Avoid using too many fields

By following these best practices, you can ensure that your paper form is easy to use on a mobile device, which will make it more likely to be filled out correctly.

10. Test your design with users

User testing allows you to see how real people interact with your form. This is valuable feedback that can help you improve the design of your form.

It’s important to test with a variety of users, including those who are familiar with the subject matter and those who are not. This will help you identify any areas where the form might be confusing or unclear.

Testing should be done early and often during the design process. It’s better to catch problems early on so they can be fixed before the form goes to print.


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