PDF form v. HTML

7 Jan 2008 - 11:05am
6 years ago
2 replies
1385 reads
kimbieler
2007

I'm looking for information on the pros and cons of using a PDF form
to enter information that will feed into a database, versus a plain
old HTML form.

I don't have any experience with online PDF forms but my gut feeling
is that they might be less accessible and possibly harder to use
because of font issues and the like. Any thoughts?

-- Kim

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Kim Bieler Graphic Design
www.kbgd.com
www.stargazertees.com
c. 240-476-3129
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Comments

7 Jan 2008 - 11:47am
Ari
2006

PDF forms can be prettier but they are a pain to set up and require a lot
more work to properly integrate with a backend. then you have to figure out
how to do form validation and input error feedback.
HTML forms would be a wiser choice for many reasons.

On 1/7/08, Kim Bieler <kimbieler at mindspring.com> wrote:
>
> I'm looking for information on the pros and cons of using a PDF form
> to enter information that will feed into a database, versus a plain
> old HTML form.
>
> I don't have any experience with online PDF forms but my gut feeling
> is that they might be less accessible and possibly harder to use
> because of font issues and the like. Any thoughts?
>
>
> -- Kim
>
> + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
> Kim Bieler Graphic Design
> www.kbgd.com
> www.stargazertees.com
> c. 240-476-3129
> + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
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7 Jan 2008 - 3:06pm
Caroline Jarrett
2007

Your gut feeling is right: PDF forms do tend to suffer more from
accessibility issues. But it's possible to build accessible PDF, and
all too easy to build inaccessible HTML forms.

Anyway, here goes on a few of the things to consider:

- PDF forms are often sold by Adobe (and others) as being good
'because they replicate the familiar paper form'. This may or may not
be a good thing in real life. Often, the old paper form is very bad to
use indeed - from any point of view: filling it in, dealing with it,
getting it into a database.

- Sometimes moving to an HTML form is the excuse to thoroughly
rexamine the use of the form. But you should be doing that for a PDF
form anyway: there's no reason why technology should drive business
investigation.

- Many forms have a hybrid life: some existence on paper, some on the
web. Users may want to print them out; they may need to be available
in non-cyper locations such as in a sales rep's paperwork; they may
require extensive notes that may be easier to deal with on paper; etc,
etc. If so, there's often some benefit in having a PDF so it really
does look exactly like the paper form, and so that people can use it
as 'electric paper' for print on demand.

- I'm totally technology independent i.e. lots of lovely other people
build the stuff for my client and I don't usually have to worry about
that part. But I get the impression from observing technical
discussions that implementing 'save and resume' type features is a lot
easier in HTML. And also conditional forms i.e. ones where what you
get on the second page varies depeding on your answers to the first
page (or varients thereof).

- users expect some types of form to be HTML: registration, log on,
checkout for example.

Hope this helps

Caroline Jarrett
caroline.jarrett at effortmark.co.uk
01525 370379

Effortmark Ltd
Usability - Forms - Content

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