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I'm a member of a team developing a business application. Basically - it is all about data entry. There are people (thousands of them) sitting whole day and filling the form below over and over in various ways. Or will be, right now they do it on the mainframe.

The question is - if we were to alter the UI, how to approach it? This system is designed to provide features of several others (to replace them) and should display more data then the mainframe "by design". Also I'm assured that all of the data is required for their work and important. Do you have any proposals where to even begin? Could you suggest something without deep knowledge of the system?

Below I'm attaching a simplified mockup of the screen where regular users will spend most of their time. It is 1000px wide and cannot be wider. There are more fields then on the mockup. Also each fields has a label above it.

(yes, I know - it is scary)

mockup

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Oh my, I'm not sure where to begin with that. What do you know about the existing interface(s)? Have you done any research with the users? Spent any time watching how they work? It'll be hard for you or anyone else to design a better solution without understanding how those people work, how the existing solution works (or doesn't), its strengths and its weaknesses. –  Matt Obee Dec 6 '12 at 23:39
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Please tell me you're kidding... –  JohnGB Dec 7 '12 at 0:24
    
It's hard to give you any good advice about grouping elements without a clearer understanding of the relationship between different form items. Could you give us example data? –  slawrence10 Dec 12 '12 at 23:28

3 Answers 3

Background: I have no experience in UX, however am an avid computer user and power user of many programs on the market. I hope my opinion can -HELP- guide you, please do not take it as advice of an expert!

You may consider having multiple pages to the form if you can. I look at that and immediately get the feeling that it is way too complex and your average user will just feel overwhelmed (reducing productivity). I'm not entirely sure any way to simplify it outside of pages.

It might be possible to allow "profiles" or "presets" that pre-fill most of the data on the form that will always be the same, or perhaps something like "linked" fields - such that when one field is almost always related to another being the same answer, filling the first auto-fills the second to the match (but changing the second does not modify the first). Obviously this might decrease accuracy as people are more likely to skim over rather than enter data themselves and pay more attention, so I would be sure to monitor for how the speed improvements counterplay against the validity.

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I like the idea of user profiles to knock out some of the information that they need to enter. This would obviously depend on the content of the application, but (1) if there is user information that they enter in everytime, then it would help to save time entering this over and over, or (2) if there are several different profiles that would necessarily go together, then allowing them to select a profile would fill out the related information. –  sacohe Dec 7 '12 at 1:11
    
Everything that can be automatically prefilled - is. Everything that is belived to be "true" is uneditable. Data in the form is tax-related. There is a whole seperate system which is preparing values to prefill some of the fields –  user22094 Dec 7 '12 at 2:11

This is crying for a wizard. When there is too much information to fill it is better to structure it into logical groupings like you seem to have done and show them gradually. As a user I have filled out several 'Step 1 of x' forms most of the times not realising as too how much information I had just entered. A wizard is definitely a good start.

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So far, the answers given suggest multiple pages. As the users will be filling out this form over and over, keep in mind that more pages means more time wasted waiting for the next page to load and more effort as well as an extra click per page. When a user has to fill this lengthy form out multiple times, it is adding insult to injury forcing them to wait for the next page, which they already know what will be on it and would rather get started on it. In a case like this, the only reason to split it into pages would be if following pages depended on the content they have input or selected on previous parts.

If all the content is preloaded and switching between pages is very fast, then my argument does not apply, although it does still cost them an extra click to reach the next section.

I would recommend keeping it on one page but splitting it into better defined sections and giving each part much more space. This will increase the legibility of the page and make it not look so overwhelming. If people may want to skip around sections, you could give it the feel of multiple pages by utilizing the popular trend in web design of a single page site, where the menu options at the top scroll down the page to the appropriate section.

This form is a good example of one with a lot of spacing so the number of fields is not too overwhelming, and the headers clearly split up the content into sections.

Making use of tabs or pages like in this example minimizes the amount of content the user sees at once. Again, titles/headings clearly define the section for the user to allow them to focus on one concept at a time.

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