Increasing engagement: How to improve eForm response rates

Front-end technologies have become crucial for NHS and healthcare, local government, housing, higher education and policing organisations across the UK. From portals and applications to online reporting and appointment bookings – the power of eForms seems endless in the public sector. Not only do they improve data accuracy and speed up processes (with many eForms integrating directly with back-office systems) but they’re also extremely popular with citizens due to their convenience.  

That being said, particularly when introducing eForms into an existing process, the switch to online forms isn’t always linear. Altering any process can be met with resistance – be that due to our natural aversion to change, a lack of know-how or simple unawareness. In this edition of Hot Topics, we’re taking a closer look at how we can get eForms off the ground, so they can successfully deliver those all-important benefits.  

Communication is key  

Whether its patients, residents, students, tenants – or even your own internal teams – people won’t use an eForm they don’t know anything about. The most important aspect in garnering engagement with digital processes is awareness. Plan and deliver a strong communications campaign to bolster usage and ensure people know what’s available. Make sure to shout about your shiny new eForm, or if it replaces an existing process, plan for a crossover period and signpost your web-based upgrade in the original format. For example, if you use paper forms for your referral process, add some copy to let referrers know there’s an online portal coming soon.  

When planning your communications, target your users strategically. It’s best to spread messaging across several channels depending on your audience. You might be targeting the public, internal teams, other organisations, or all of the above. For the best chances of successful communication, it’s best to combine a number of channels and formats in your campaign, such as:  

  • Emails and message boards (physical and digital) 
  • Social media posts and videos  
  • Letters, leaflets and posters 
  • Phone calls and texts 

Provide some guidance  

Once people are aware of your eForm, it’s important to make sure they know what to do with it. Add some instructions to the web form to guide the user through the experience and save some frustration – not forgetting format requirements, such as how to enter a date so the field will recognise the information correctly. Mandatory fields are another way to ensure those all-important details don’t get missed, and a progress bar can prevent users from getting lost or submitting before form completion.  

Keep it simple  

Let’s face it – no one likes admin. Even with clear instructions, you’ll find most users are trying to run through the process as quickly as possible – leaving room for frustrating errors. Keep your eForm as simple as possible. Features like drop-down menus, autofill and multichoice speed up the process for users, making it more likely they’ll reach the end without issue.  

Optimise for mobile  

It’s easy to fall into the trap of optimising your eForms for use on a desktop browser and forget about mobile devices. And for some eForms, that’s perfectly fine – if they’re solely used on work machines by public sector professionals, for example. However, the majority of public users – and teams working out in the community – will access them on a mobile device. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to ensure your eForm is properly optimised for mobile use. We’ve all seen a poorly optimised eForm on a mobile browser, and have probably been frustrated by the need to zoom in, scroll from side to side, and mis-press a button that stalls our progress to get the job done.  

Make it pretty!  

We’re visual creatures. An aesthetically pleasing design goes a long way, and an eForm with the proper branding increases trust. A poorly laid out form without any visual links to your public sector organisation is likely to set off some alarm bells – especially in the digital age where scams are rife. Design can make or break user experience. It’s a key player in good UI. Prioritise readability and accessibility, but ensure fonts, images and colours are appealing to boost engagement.  

Pay attention to feedback  

Whether it be direct feedback or tracking insights, take notice of any areas in your eForm that seem to pose recurring issues. Perhaps a field is poorly worded, leading to continual mistakes. Maybe a dropdown isn’t working as intended, leading to a stark drop-off rate. Find those core issues and keep tweaking. Work with your users – not against them.  

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Do it all with low-code

Interested in deploying eForms in your own organisation, or looking for a product that allows you to build and tweak them faster than ever before? NDL Digitise lets you do it all without the need for advanced coding experience, thanks to its low-code studio. To learn more about the power of eForms, don’t hesitate to get in touch – or for more inspiration, take a look at our library of eForm success stories