Will Somebody Fix Forms Already?

One of the great things about working with the government, becoming a full-time employee or having your company acquired is that you get to fill out forms. Lots and lots of forms. They all want the same data. They all want to be printed out, signed and scanned.

My fingers crack and bleed just thinking about it.

I know there is probably some module for some heinous system like SAP that has a copy of every form ever made and will pre-fill in those details, and there are also probably a couple HR companies that do some of that to a certain extent, but I have yet to see anything designed for actual users that solves this problem.

On the publisher side the interface I imagine lets you upload PDFs/images of forms, and using an interface similar to Flickr’s image notes draw boxes and tag them with which kind of content goes in there (“first name”, “checkbox”, “date of birth”). Let everybody in the world upload their forms and tag them, perhaps add some full-text search and tagging to assist in finding public forms that others have made.

On the consumer side, let users enter in the data for popular fields and autofill those (you could probably even generate html forms and have the browser autofill for you), and let them click on checkboxes and enter text in general purpose text fields. You probably want a general service for letting users draw a signature and store it for re-use for the companies that will allow you that — or just make it look suitable hand-drawn and scanned to fool them.

Forms will still be annoying but 90% less so. Who’s with me?

2 thoughts on “Will Somebody Fix Forms Already?

  1. I’m with you on having the solution exist.

    I am so NOT with you on having to actually build this, since it will mean spending a lot of time talking to the people that make and force the use of paper forms.

    shudder

  2. It’s funny you should mention this…

    I’m working on designing a system for this right now to get rid of the paper forms in a large university system. It’s essentially XML stored in a document database and XSL for presentation and making the SOAP calls to our ERP system to pre-populate the forms with as much info as possible.

    The vendor (Lexmark/Perceptive Software) is coming out with a form designer actually quite similar to what you describe so hopefully more can be done by end users without diving into markup language.

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