How to keep your form as short as possible

Date adopted: 
July 27, 2023
Last update: 
August 14, 2023

Follow this advice to meet the user experience forms standard #1: Keep your form as short as possible.

Only ask people for the information required to deliver the service

It’s tempting to add questions to forms that will give you extra information you can use to improve your program delivery. However, this is not the time to do it. When people interact with the government – they have no choice. They're trying to access a service only the government delivers. You cannot take advantage of that and make them jump through extra hoops.

Recommended ways to get additional information to improve a program or service 

Give people an opportunity to provide you with additional details after they complete and submit the form. You can include a link and instructions in the confirmation email or confirmation page.

For example: "Do you have 5 minutes to help us improve this service? Take our questionnaire (link this text) or phone 867-444-8907 to answer a few questions."

If the first option does not work, you can include the additional questions at the end of your form, but you must make sure these are optional.

You can also reach out to your clients through any routine communications you might do.

Check in with your communications team to see if there's any website feedback from the page that links to your form or service. This is a very common way for people to share feedback about their experience and it could provide you with some insights. 

Make sure people only have to input information once

Do not make people input the same piece of information more than once on a form.

  • Make sure you review the form and remove duplicate fields.
  • Find ways to preserve the person's inputs.
    • pre-populate fields; or
    • add a checkbox so a person can select "Same as personal address" or another option. 

If there are exceptional instances where you require a person to add the same information more than once, let them know why.

  • Re-label fields so they are more specific.
  • Add hint text to explain the "why" to the user so they understand any nuances that might explain the request.

Refer people to places where they can find more information or context

  • Rather than squish extra text into the limited space in a PDF form, you can link to supplementary text on
  • For web forms you can include information in the start page or bridge page on

What about instances where the form is still long?

Longer or more complex forms are best designed as web forms. This allows you to employ some strategies to make it easier for people to tackle. For example, you can do 1 of the following:

  • use logic so people only see the questions that apply to their specific scenario (they will not see additional fields that do not apply to them);
  • only display 5 to 7 fields at a time to make the content easier to digest; and
  • if you have more than 6 fields, group related content together in sections or steps.