The content on this page is currently in draft as our team finalizes it. We expect to finalize this page in August. In the meantime, if you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This page provides guidance for government staff who are thinking about requesting a form and deciding which option is the best choice to meet client and business needs.
Traditional, static PDF forms
Choose this type of form if:
- people will fill in the form digitally or email it as an attachment;
- people will print the form in standard sizes and complete it by hand; or
- you need the form to appear the same whether it's printed, emailed or viewed on a computer or mobile device.
Custom print forms
Choose this type of form if you need to meet user or business needs by:
- customizing the size of the form;
- using special paper options such as card stock, carbon copies, or waterproof paper; or
- using specific binding or finishing options such as perforation or padding.
Web forms are made up of components and patterns.
Components are reusable parts of a web form that have been built to support online applications.
Individual components can be used in multiple different patterns and contexts. For example, the "text input" component can be used to ask for an email address or someone’s name.
We use Drupal to build these forms. Drupal is one of the government's common platform components. It includes built-in styles and settings to ensure your form will meet the digital service standards.
Choose this type of form when you:
- want people to be able to complete and submit it online;
- want the form's content to be easily sent to an internal system rather than having to re-type;
- need it to be responsive so it can display on a variety of devices;
- want to take online payment; or
- do not accept handwritten or faxed copies.
Forms internal to the government
The government uses Nintex for internal forms. Contact your department SharePoint administrator for guidance on internal forms.
Other factors to consider as you decide which type of form to use
It's important to think about your audience, budget, timeline and the complexity and length of the form. These factors will also inform the best choice for your form project.
Who are the people who will access the service via your form?
As you think about the main user groups of people who will access your service, ask yourself the following questions.
- Will they be using a mobile device to fill out a form on a job site or while they are on the go? A web form would be the easiest to fill out on a mobile device.
- Are people who will complete the form most likely to be sitting at a desk or completing the form at work? Either a web form or fillable form could work.
- Is the main user group one that does not have access to a computer or mobile device and they need a paper form to fill out? In these cases, you should use a fillable and printable PDF.
- Have you considered people who might use assistive technologies such as screen readers? In these cases a web form is more accessible option.
What is your project budget?
Fillable and printable PDFs are lescostly to produce. You can email email@example.com to talk about your project and get an estimate. If you have a limited budget, a PDF form could be the way to go.
Web forms cost more that fillable pdfs to design, but the benefits to the people who use the service often make it a worthwhile option. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to see what your options are and to get an estimate. We can also help make recommendations for applying for funding for your project.
When do you need the form? Designing, translating and publishing PDFs has a quicker turnaround time. If you need to get a form out quickly, this is the best option.
Web forms take longer to design and build and there is usually a front end (part the public sees and interacts with) and a back end (where staff process and approve applications and create reports) to develop. This is a great option for teams that have some time and space to plan out the project. Web forms are more accessible and easier for people to use so they are a great option.
Length and complexity of the form
If you’ve done all you can to remove unnecessary fields but the form is still long or complex, we recommend you go with a web form. This is the best option because it only displays a few questions at a time and it makes it easier for people to understand and complete. It also lets people see where they are in the process. For example, Page 1 of 7.
Are you unsure which type of form you should go with?
If you are not sure either type of form is a good fit, you can look at the government's common platform components to see if there is another option that could work. You can also email email@example.com to talk about these options.