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Style guide

Style guides for electronic forms and for web applications

Style guide for Electronic Forms

However, official signatures are not the only elements which have to adhere to certain rules; online forms must do this as well. In the beginnings of eGovernment, forms could only be downloaded, printed, and filled-out by hand. Today, procedures are being developed more and more so that no changes in media format need to occur coupled with personalisation or prior filling, meaning that more and more forms can be completed online and signed electronically – and where this is possible, existing data are filled in advance in e-forms in order to save users having to input them and to thus increase convenience of use.

Since Web forms are the most common access point for different kinds of online eGovernment offerings, a standard presentation and design is extremely important. Therefore, a style guide was developed for e-forms to be used as the basis for creating standard, user-friendly and accessibility-oriented designs. In this context, it is fundamental to use the possibilities of the current state of the art (HTML5, JavaScript, AJAXs, etc.) for the configuration of the forms. That is why the “style guide for e-forms” is also being currently revised. The update work for the convention is currently in its finalisation phase so that a framework for a contemporary implementation of e-forms will soon be available

Public authorities should design their Internet forms according to the criteria in the style guide, provided that no other design is stipulated by law. Standardised design of forms in digital Government benefits eGovernment because citizens can get oriented faster. Similarities between forms increase the recognition factor and helps navigate easier through e-forms. A further increase in the usage convenience can be achieved through the prior filling of form data because input work from information available in the administration (in registers, back-office applications and other sources of data) can be saved.

The following (graphical) design requirements are outlined in the "style guide for e-forms":

  • The e-form design should contain recurring form elements such as the recipient (the public authority), the form of address (title), introductory text or explanation, hints for filling out the form, error checking, a field for comments, an acknowledgement text, as well as navigation, form recognition factors and the progress display in the form.
  • The content of the form is divided up into sections for the applicant, the address, the form fields and attachments.
  • The form sections in turn consist of individual elements (section title, design, introductory texts, hints, text fields and selection fields). Guidelines on the use of fonts, lines, colours, standardised date formats, graphical elements, links and glossaries round off the style guide.
  • With the updating of the style guide, the behaviour of form elements in the document is also increasingly described. New dynamic patterns make it possible to react more to user entries in the configuration of the form – and always to display precisely those input and selection fields that are relevant.

The style guide describes the appearance, behaviour and the data blocks of an e-form; the data elements are described using XML specifications. 

Style guide for Web Applications

On an increasingly frequent scale, applications are being created by authorities with the goal of also making them available to other authorities. In the process, a major commercial benefit can be gained as the applications do not have to be developed and operated by each partner. This is made possible, among others, by the eGovernment strategies developed in Austria over the last few years (portal group (Portalverbund), security and role concepts, etc.) and the technical environment (portal group protocol (PVP), common data models, web service interfaces, etc.).

The "style guide for web applications (between authorities)" is used for newly developed web applications across authorities. The document is aimed at project managers, developers of web applications across authorities and people responsible for style guides of web applications and forms the basis for a structured development of web applications, for a systematic structuring of the content and a uniform external form (layout). The goal is to depict the fundamental components of a uniform operating concept in the form of samples and best practices.

In the process, a greater acceptance and an improved usability as well as a reduced induction time for the users can be achieved.

Further information

Style guide for Web Applications (reference server, in German)