Preliminary considerations

The process of assembling and analysing information relating to a proposed form should make its purpose clear and establish its essential content. Various general factors likely to influence the design must then be considered, and the weight to be given to each determined before detailed work begins.

Some factors to be taken into account are:

Is a new form necessary?

  1. Can an existing form be adapted to suit the need. An existing form can sometimes be modified in such a way to cater for slight variations, so that one form can be used on a number of occasions.

  2. Can an existing General Service form or accounting form with stock rulings be used (there is a range of G.S. forms available for accounts, establishment and registry work as catalogued in H.M.S.O. List of Standard Books, Forms etc. for use in the Public Service. Code No. 10-15-0). In some instances stock items can be overprinted to meet small departmental requirements.

Should there be an entirely new conception of the use of the form?

  1. Can the number of forms used in a particular operation be reduced by designing a multi-purpose document? For example, a form might serve as an application by the public, a record of internal processing action as well as a notification of the action taken; an envelope or pouch may be designed to serve both as a file container for correspondence and an action record.

  2. Can the form be designed to serve various purposes as it moves along with the work, and used for recording any necessary additional data in the process?

How should the needs of those completing or using the form influence its design ?

  1. Especially when a form is to be completed by a member of the general public it should be designed to give him the utmost assistance. Forms which give rise to difficulties for the public will almost certainly cause more work in departments because they are liable to be misunderstood and wrongly completed.

    If particular requests for information, e.g. to traders, may involve them in expense and trouble every attention should be given to design factors which will reduce their work. Subject to this, especially in relation to services which provide direct benefit to the public, there may be scope for simplifying departmental work as much as possible, e.g. by asking members of the public to fill in address particulars on a document that may have to be returned after departmental action.

How will working conditions influence design?

(a) At the point of completion of the form

If the form is to be used out of doors or in dirty working conditions or where there is no proper working desk available, design may be dominated by these factors.

The need for speed in completing the form may be important, e.g. when making a traffic census or taking urgent information by telephone.

(b) At the place at which the form is dealt with

The handling and use of the form may be greatly facilitated by design factors, e.g. a special layout of information to speed up a punching operation, a particular shape, colour etc. to facilitate sorting or distribution of forms. Do the office machines to be used impose limitations as to spacing, layout etc.? Does the filing equipment to be used determine the size, shape etc. of the form?

Other factors

The departmental Clerk of Stationery will be familiar with the requirements and supplies of H.M. Stationery Office and should normally be consulted; if appropriate he will arrange consultation with H.M. Stationery Office.

This will be particularly important where costs of production are significant although such costs are not the only relevant factors when considering whether to redesign a form.

Reductions in associated procedures, or savings in the time required by users to deal with the contents, can be costed in the light of potential staff savings and so justify heavier production costs.

Conversely, redesign which reduces production costs may not be acceptable because it necessitates greater staff effort, or merely transfers additional operating costs elsewhere.

The H.M. Stationery Office Guide: Part 1, Notes for Clerks of Stationery and Part 2, Standards for Authors and Printers contain a variety of useful information about stationery and printing supplies and H.M. Stationery Office will advise about printing and typographical matters.

The Department’s laboratory for testing and inspecting paper and office requisites is also available to help with special problems covering the quality and performance of paper and supplies, or with special security requirements for documents.