Always Give Instructions with Online Forms

Published:  July 27, 2016

Users Don't Always Behave How We Would Expect

I have a number of clients using online forms for patient registration information (which is great!) and I am recommending to these clients that they add very clear instructions to these forms.   May of the forms are multi-page forms, and it's unclear whether or not a patient filling in the information will be able to save their progress. 

Instructions are Critical

I recommend that you explain in the instructions somewhere if the user is able to save their progress or not. You don't want them to spend 20 minutes getting to page 5 of 6 and then needing to ask their spouse (who isn't at home)  for their work address (or whatever info, etc.) and not being able to save their 20 min of work - as they will become incredibly frustrated -- if not angry.
And if they can't save, make sure you write "please have the following information available before you fill out this form, as you will not be able to save your progress."

the key to press when you are frustrated

the key to press when you are frustrated

Instructions Are Also Critical on Single Page or Short Forms

Thinking about your website's contact form, you should add instructions clarifying what you want people to use the form for, and what you do not want them using the form for.  On all of our client contact forms, for example, we write something along the lines of, "You can get in touch with us by calling (123)-456-7890 or by using the contact form below. Please do not use this form for appointment-related matters or for emergencies."
The last thing you want is for a patient to send an email at 7:50AM that they are cancelling their 8AM appointment (where you naturally blocked out three hours of time), or to email that they have a swelling at 8AM and get angry (or hurt) because you didn't check your contact form until 5pm that day.

So remember, when it comes to how visitors use technology, expect the unexpected!

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