Design forms - Digital Standards

Design best practice online forms. Includes the Victorian Government recommendations and standards that must be met.

Before you begin

What are online forms?

Online forms are used to streamline and improve the user experience when transacting with government. A well-designed form replaces time consuming and complicated paper processes

While designers and developers create forms, it’s important everyone involved in their creation understands how to apply good form design. This will help us deliver a better user experience and ultimately, better online products or services.

Good form design needs careful thought. It’s less straightforward than it first appears.

Why design useful and accessible forms?

Improve the user experience

Nobody wants to spend time filling out a form. We have an opportunity to make the form completion process as fast and as simple as we can. This also means back-office staff will do less data entry as a result of your online forms.

Create accessible forms for everyone

People with disability - people with low or no vision, people with low literacy, the elderly and people with low levels of digital literacy are important people to consider when designing government services. Making forms accessible to everyone will ensure the government can meet the needs of everyone. Refer to the How-to Guide: How to make websites and content accessible.

Not everyone has access to digital

Some groups in society (such as aged, low socio-economic groups etc.) won't have access to digital content (either due to lack of access to technology, or lack of skills to do so, or both), and you’ll need to offer a non-digital way to offer the service. For example, you can still get a 'Working with Children Check' paper form even though most registrations are now done digitally.

What does the Victorian Government recommend?

Build all forms so they can also be used online.

What standards must be met?

Follow the online forms standard

The complete online forms standard with illustrations.


Comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. Refer to the How-to guide, How to manage security, and standards on the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner website.

You must include form validation in your form

Form validation checks to make sure a user has filled out all required fields of a form. For example: If the name field is blank, take the user back to the form and display an error message. Form validation can be simple or complex. Server side validation should test from the server side, so the form checks all content on submission.

Payment card industry (PCI) security standards

The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council set up the PCI security standards to protect cardholder data. These global standards govern all merchants and organisations that store, process or transmit this data. The major payment card brands, for example, Visa, enforce compliance.


Apply Brand Victoria. Refer to the How-to guide: How to apply Brand Victoria.


Comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014, and only collect information you’re legally entitled to collect. You’ll need to craft and publish a privacy ‘collection notice’ (refer to the How-to guide, How to manage privacy or the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner website.)

If your digital presence collects personal information, then the physical location of the servers where it’s stored must have the same level of legal protection for private data as we offer citizens in Victoria.


To comply with the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Disability Discrimination Act, and the WoVG standard ‘Conform to Level AA of version 2.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)’, your digital presence must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version 2.0 (WCAG) AA standard.

If your audience is primarily people with a disability (for example, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) clients), your site must pass the test for the AAA standard. Refer to the How-to guide, How to make websites and content accessible.

Manage public records

The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) (under Section 12 of the Public Records Act 1973) sets the standards for managing the public records your department or agency create. Always check with your department’s or agency’s records or information management specialist first for the approach to compliance.

Refer to How to manage online records for more information or the PROV website.


All e-payment procedures must adhere to the Standing Directions (Victoria’s Minister of Finance) for money taken by credit card, or other electronic media.

Step 1: Read the Online Forms Design Standard

Read the Forms Design Standard

What the design standard covers

  • What makes a good form.
  • How to write good questions.
  • Layouts that work, including a section on key screens.
  • Creating a form experience that flows.
  • One form or many? Which is better for the user?
  • Checking your forms are accessible (WCAG 2.0 AA)

Who created it?

The company, Formulate Information Design, prepared the Online Forms Design Standard in 2014. Formulate Information Design drew upon today’s industry standards and approaches, as well as their specialist knowledge and experience of best practice form design.

Step 2: Implement the design standards

Talk to your design team

The aim is to provide instruction and guidance on the approach for all common form design problems. This frees up all parties to focus on more challenging or unique form design issues. Don’t overlook the active community of practice WoVG Digital Group on Yammer (VPS access only).

Solve problems collaboratively

We think the forms usability standard will work for most situations. In some circumstances, a new situation or overriding business justification may mean using an alternative approach.

Review published forms for technology changes

Keep a record of where forms are used and then review them periodically for best practices as they change, for example, ease of use, relevance, entry, and validation techniques.

Reviewed 31 December 2018

Join the conversation on digital

Get advice and share your insights about this topic with other digital practitioners on the WoVG Digital Group on Yammer (VPS access only).

Can’t access Yammer? Contact us by email: (We may post your comment on Yammer for general discussion. Please tell us if that’s not OK.)

Join the Yammer Digital Group
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