General Question

kevbo's avatar

Anyone have a magic formula for creating dummy-proof, interactive .pdf forms that anyone can download, complete and return?

Asked by kevbo (24193 points ) 1 month ago from iPhone

My work relies on interactive .pdf forms as a tool for clients to open and/or download from our website, fill out, and then send to us by email.

I am new to all of this, but I am generally responsible now for uploading these .pdfs to our website, and I also receive forms completed by clients.

Most of these forms are created in MS Word for PC and exported to interactive .pdf. Some are created in Word for Mac and some are created in Acrobat Pro for both PC and Mac.

Some end users have problems because they try to complete the forms in their browser. Others have problems after they download the form, especially if it is protected and they don’t understand they have to make a duplicate or whatever to fill in the blanks, save, and send. One form in particular has an “Email this form” button which is supposed to execute a “mailto:” command but either the button is broken or some users don’t have a dedicated email program enabled on their machine.

So, if you have a magic formula or resource, please let me know. I need to learn this stuff. Thanks!

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10 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Serious answer from someone that was in the “dot com” business during the rise.

Get them to fax it back. We had to get on the phone for customer support with problem solving.
If the answers are important fax them, but find someone else to convert the fax to computer input.

All customers don’t understand or some are afraid of computers, give a phone number to call.

It sounds like the programming was done with the assumption the person on the other end was at a high level of computer smarts.

kevbo's avatar

Thanks for the suggestion. It’s certainly in our means to do that; however, we are dealing with volunteers (essentially) who likely don’t have fax capability, since it’s going the way of the dodo in terms of general use. Presumably, we are using .pdfs because they are the tools we have on hand. I get what you’re saying, but learning how to make it work better seems like the better option still. Also, we aren’t really staffed for numerous calls. For a few of these things, plain text email would be a better option.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

We had classes on the phone with clients
1) set up a computer
2) connect it internet ( some of them had dial-up AOL couldn’t talk and use computer at same time )
3) get print button to work on printer.

dappled_leaves's avatar

It sounds like your best option is to edit the forms to add a [very simple, straightforward] set of instructions at the top.

Something like:

1. Save this form to your Desktop (File > Save as)
2. Open the form from the Desktop and complete
3. Save the form, and email to (address) as an attachment

Any users who are familiar with the “mail to” button will recognize that and use it instead. Basically, the instructions are for people who don’t know a simper way to do things. More advanced users will do it their own way without pestering you about it.

I agree that faxing and scanning are probably not as accessible to some people, and will create more problems than they solve.

jaytkay's avatar

Are you PDFs necessary? Could the work be done with online or emailed forms?

Zoho online forms

Adobe FormsCentral

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

^ I agree. Why does the form have to be a pdf? You can create forms using Google Forms or similar easily and they’re not difficult for the end user to deal with. Fill it in, submit. Why is it important the form is in a pdf format?

kevbo's avatar

It’s just what the organization uses. I’ve only been there two months and have never done web content, so it’s all new to me. I’ll definitely look into these options, but there’s also some general concern about anonymity that I have to consider.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I use Google Forms a lot in my work. There are other options, but this works for me because of choices my organisation has made. You can specify whether the person’s email/identity should be provided or not. I often have to obtain anonymous feedback. It takes very little time or technical skill to develop a survey/questionnaire and the responses automatically go into a database. It’s easy to share a link to the survey in an email or on a website. You can share the data with other people too.

Perhaps you can try it out and suggest it as an improvement to the current processes your organisation is using? Might be a feather in your cap.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit But does that create problems for anonymity where the users’ Google+ accounts are concerned, for example? Google has a bad history of keeping information private, as well as of keeping its different products separate. As a client, if I had a choice between using a Google form and anything else, I’d use anything else.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I’ve never had anyone say they don’t want to complete the form because it’s a Google form and as I mentioned, my organisation has chosen to tie itself to the Google mail system so it’s easier to use the Google product than try to get approval to use something else. The people completing the form don’t have to have a Google+ account to complete a form.

I haven’t investigated whether there are other companies that produce forms that are so easy to use, but I’m sure they exist. If my main concern is protecting people’s anonymity from the company that provides the form how would I guarantee another company is any more careful or ethical about the surreptitious collection of information I gather than Google is?

Given our governments’ behaviour in terms of collecting data about us, or Facebook or any other large conglomerates operating online, I think it would be difficult to ensure anything you put online is safe. I’m quite sure people with the right access could trawl pretty much anything I write on the internet and while I don’t like that, it’s not in my power to stop it so I either stop using the net or live with the situation. My personal choice is not to put anything online I might be concerned about someone else reading. At work, I have to make decisions about the expedient way to evaluate the work we do and right now Google offer a good product.

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