Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement

Tips for designing forms using Word

There are numerous sources elsewhere for methods to create forms using Word, so some helpful points to bear in mind with the design of a form are listed. Most people find filling in forms a chore, so it is important that forms are visually appealing and not too long or complicated. Incorporating some of the following points should help you to produce an improved form.

To make a form more visually appealing

  • Keep it simple
    • use a single plain typeface in a couple of different sizes
    • limit the use of bold and italic type
    • keep all text as concise as possible
    • avoid using underlined text
    • limit use of colour
    • use wider line spacing for easier reading
  • Be consistent – use the same type style/size/colour/spacing etc for the same type of information
  • Divide the information required into sections to break up each page
  • In forms with numerous sections, aim to keep whole section(s) on each page
  • Try to ensure sections occupy the whole page by enlarging/reducing box sizes
  • Change the section order to fit the pages if necessary (not always possible)
  • Use colour in heading boxes to add interest

Interactive forms

From creating interactive forms with a combination of text boxes to write in, check boxes and drop down menus (that have a limit of 25 possible choices) it was found that:

  • Using the ‘Legacy Forms’ form fields (under ‘Controls’) was preferable – previously users had problems filling in forms with a combination of the standard form fields
  • Selecting ‘no background’ for interactive areas gives the user the option to print the form and complete it manually


  • In multiple page forms:
    • insert page numbers
    • include the form title in a footer on each page
  • Including a version number in the footer can be useful for forms that are regularly updated
  • Create a table to use as a framework for forms to give a precise layout that can be easily altered
  • Changing the table lines to a narrow width ensures they do not dominate
  • For forms with empty boxes to complete – choose either expanding boxes or restrict the amount written by specifying the exact box height
  • A form that seems straightforward to you might not be to a user – ask others who are not familiar with the content to check it’s usability by filling in the form
  • As a Mac user, the PC Word interface was found to be easier to use for creating forms


Producing a good form that is easy for others to use is time-consuming! Be prepared to spend time on the design and to make numerous minor adjustments to the layout as you go along for a more effective form. Your finished form can then be used as a template on which to base future forms.