Form Design Best Practices

If you are updating an old form or designing one from scratch, here are some tips to get you started:

Page layout

  • Make sure font sizes are legible.
  • Clearly delineate every response area with a bounding box that is large enough to capture complete answers.
  • Add a page number and ID field on each page. This will help in the case of pages being lost or shuffled.
  • If you have multiple versions of your form, note the version name or number on every page. NOTE: Captricity expects the blank and completed forms to be exactly the same version. Even slight visual or text differences can alter your results so make sure to use the exact same version.
  • Place three distinct visual objects, such as a logo or QR code, in three corners of the page. If you use QR codes, you can encode the form name, version, and page. 

Question design

Handwritten fields

  • Use character-separated fields for important information (e.g. |_|_|_|_|_|).
  • Use wide rules (horizontal lines) as a guide to hint at optimal handwriting size and answer length.

Multiple-choice fields

  • Use circles for “select-one” answers and squares for “select-many” answers.
  • Encode answer choices with a number, e.g. Yes (1) No (2) Don’t Know (88).

Number fields

  • Consider specifying decimals with character-separated fields (e.g. |_|_|.|_|_|).  Unless very clearly marked, decimals may not show up on images.
  • Clearly specify units. If unit choices are pre-defined, consider a “select-one” response field for units.
  • If you expect and want to avoid fraction answers (1/2 pound) or ranges (2-4 per day), use character-separated fields to force response as a decimal or whole number. For more flexibility, simply leave the field open for text.


  • Avoid having respondent cross out mistakes on multiple-choice questions. Rather, instruct them to leave the original answer marked and then mark and circle their new answer.