When dealing with clients, you must gather as much information as possible before starting a project.
Perhaps the most popular online method of info-gathering is through web-based forms, but we’re going to look at another option — to offer a downloadable form as a PDF file, so your 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 during the design process.
A few people have asked me how to create interactive PDFs, so here’s a quick insight.
LiveCycle Designer is used for creating interactive forms, and I use Acrobat Professional for viewing the info that clients enter.
Here’s a description of the LiveCycle Designer software, lifted 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 any page layout programs before, such as Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, or even Microsoft Word, you’ll find the LiveCycle software very 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 really quite intuitive, the ‘help’ options are great, and you won’t need me to explain much more.
At the bottom of your form, simply insert a ‘submit’ button, and assign your email address into 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, in order to give clients more variety when answering my questions. I’ve often thought it’d be useful to have a couple of extra pages on my site, showing online questionnaires without the need for downloading an interactive PDF.
When a client has completed the questionnaire, and they 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 the client info is 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).
It’s simple really, and I hope my instructions don’t appear to over-complicate things. Using these forms can speed-up the design process, saving time for both me and the client.
All your client will need is a copy of Acrobat Reader, so they can view and complete the forms. It’s free to download and is in widespread use.
Update: 15th October 2007
Adobe’s LiveCycle Designer is currently for PC-use only.
How do you gather information dealing with clients?
There are always further questions I ask of clients, in addition to those in my questionnaires. These forms act as a great starting point, and help focus ideas around exactly what the client wants to achieve.
What methods of information gathering do you use when dealing with clients? If you’ve seen or interacted with my own client questionnaire forms, do you think I can improve them in any way?