Today we launch a new online toolkit that allows rating the difficulty of paper, online and phone-based forms (you can find infos on the launch event here). It is intended for government departments but most of the categories apply to non-government forms as well.
The toolkit is based on a guide that a team led by Professor Patrick Dunleavy from the LSE and Professor Helen Margetts from the Oxford Interet Institute developed for the National Audit Office and that underwent a consultation process within government. However, what I want to draw your attention to are some of the technical details of the online toolkit as in this major effort it was my responsibility to set up an interactive version of this checklist. So if you are only interested in checking how easy or difficult your form is to answer go straight to the checklist. If you are more technically inclined read on.
The checklist itself is a kind of interactive questionnaire that you go through page by page. It automatically calculates the difficulty score for a form as well as its individual sections and allows comparison with the difficulty scores of other forms rated by other users.
Some of the features I would like to mention are:
- The whole content as well as the structure (ie. the different sections of the checklist) are imported from an Excel file. In this way it is easily customisable and it is just one script for the three different types of forms: paper, online and phone.
- A load & save functionality – before saving the form an Ajax call checks if the filename is still available. Restoring a previously saved checklist was also tricky for a number of reasons, e.g. because the script won’t know from the save name what type of form it is but will redirect you accordingly.
- At the end of the checklist we provide feedback about the difficulty scores of forms rated by other users, in this way allowing you to compare the difficulty of your form with other forms. It is more of a gimmick really as of course these comparison have its problems but it gives you an idea.
- The whole site is using short, clean, memorable & “talking” URLs such as /paper-form/ or /saved/.
- No cookies. All necessary parameters are submitted via a html form.
The whole site is still in somewhat advanced beta stage so any bugs and problems you encounter – please let me know!
Since October 2006 I am both a DPhil student as well as a research assistant at the Oxford Internet Institute and here I share with the accidental reader my musings on different aspects of the Internet and society. Feel free to comment or simply ignore :-)
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