It’s important to gather as much information as possible before starting a project, and a straightforward way to gather this info is through web-based forms. But we’re going to look at another option — to offer a downloadable form as a PDF file, so clients have the ability to answer questions in their own time, before emailing the details back to you. Completed PDF forms can also be printed so the client has a hard copy — useful for referring to throughout the project.
A few people have asked how to create interactive PDFs, so here’s a quick insight.
LiveCycle Designer is used for creating interactive forms, and Acrobat Professional for viewing the completed forms.
Here’s a description of LiveCycle Designer, excerpted from Adobe’s website:
“Adobe® LiveCycle Designer software enables the creation of forms that combine high-fidelity presentation with XML data handling. The easy-to-use graphical interface of Adobe LiveCycle Designer enables users to quickly design forms, maintain form templates, define a form’s business logic, make changes, and preview forms before they are deployed as Adobe PDF or HTML documents.”
If you’ve used page layout programs such as Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, or even Microsoft Word, you’ll find LiveCycle straightforward to use.
After opening the software, simply choose ‘new form’ from the welcome screen options, and you’re ready to type your questions and insert any logos or imagery.
There are many different options for setting the style of your questions, such as drop-down lists, check boxes, or text fields where a client can type their own words. It’s quite intuitive, the ‘help’ options are great, and you won’t need me to explain much more.
At the bottom of your form, insert a ‘submit’ button, and assign your email address to its properties. I’ve saved my finished templates as PDF files, but as mentioned on Adobe’s website, you can also create HTML forms. This is something I want to learn more about to give clients variety when answering questions. It’d be useful to have a couple of extra pages on my site, showing online questionnaires without the need for downloading a PDF.
When clients have completed the questionnaire and press the ‘submit’ button, their answers will be sent (in XML format) directly to your inbox. Upon receiving the XML attachment by email, you then need to save the file to your hard drive.
Once on your hard drive, open the original questionnaire template (the blank PDF that you offer for download) in Adobe Acrobat Professional. In the ‘file’ menu choose ‘form data’ / ‘import data to form’ and there’s a prompt to locate the client file (the one saved from the email).
Using these forms can speed-up the design process, saving time for everyone involved.
All your clients need is a copy of Acrobat Reader so they can view and complete the forms. Reader is free to download.
Update: 15th October 2007
Adobe’s LiveCycle Designer is for PC-use only. If you have a Mac you’ll need to install a product like Parallels to run Windows.
How do you gather information from your clients?
These forms act as a great starting point, and help focus ideas around exactly what the client wants to achieve, but there’ll always be follow-up questions.
What methods of information gathering do you use?