Thursday, September 25, 2008

Red tape reduction via smarter online forms

There's a lot of activity in the online forms space across Australian government at present and it is proving to be an area of real cost savings and environmental benefits for public sector organisations at all levels. has supported a centralised whole-of-government approach to business focused forms for several years now and its forms section has grown significantly, particularly in the last twelve months, as agencies have recognised the potential, geared up and invested in the area.

This has been recognised in an Australia article looking at initiatives by councils, Online forms cut council red tape.

The AGOSP (Australian Government Online Services Portal) initiative at AGIMO is also implementing a forms capacity, via, for citizen forms, and this offers significant benefits for any agencies looking to leap into the realm of 'smart forms' - online forms that can be prepopulated or adjust in response to customer answers and then send the data back in a secure format (as email or directly into agency systems).

If you're an Australian public sector organisation at any level who needs to collect data from customers, it's worth checking this out and viewing the presentation given by Anthony Steve of


  1. I had a look at the online form demo on, & one thing I noticed is that in the demo showing how a citizen fills out the form (in this case a doctor filling out a dept of health form) there is lack of attention to detail for usability. While most of it seemed fairly straightforward, the process for filling in the patient's date of birth was unnecessarily convoluted. Instead of just typing in a d.o.b., the user has to go to a calendar, scroll back through to find the right year date range, choose that, then choose the day/month. I think even in the demo the process took about 10 secs, compared to about 3 secs it takes to fill in a d.o.b. by typing 11/11/1111. This is a prime example of technology forcing the user to input info in a specific format, instead of the technology supporting the user in putting the info in a way that is natural to them. Very basic usability stuff, & I'm surprised that it was missed in a project that has as one of it's prime purposes encouraging people to fill in forms online.

  2. In response to Maree's comment about the interface for users to input their DOB into a SmartForm, the method of entering the date of birth in the demonstration is purely provided as an example of how the technology could be applied.

    Maree's comment is most valid for this scenario, and that is why in the production version of the form, users are not forced to enter their DOB using a date picker. Users of the form are asked to enter their DOB using the dd/mm/yyyy format.

    Please use the following URL to view the live Department of Health form provided in the demonstration, used to assist their bowel cancer screening work -

  3. Thanks for responding Stafford

    Maree raised a valid point around form usability - good usability improves completion rates and reduces the stress levels and frustration of form users with the form and the organisation.

    I'm glad usability was considered in the development of the Dept of Health form and I expect that has developed a set of best practice guidelines based on their experiences with form design - I wonder if it can be shared?