1504.0 - Methodological News, Jun 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/07/2001   
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A number of changes relating to data capture will occur over the next few years. At the highest level these will entail offering providers a range of integrated multi-modal reporting in many collections, including paper, telephone and electronic reporting in its various forms. For the most common (even traditional) of these, namely paper forms, there is likely to be a major push to use the central scanning facilities operated by the Forms Handling Unit (FHU) for initial data capture as well as form addressing, despatch and receipt.

As survey areas who use or have converted to OCR will be aware, the OCR system currently available for ABS collections implies a number of form design or layout requirements in addition to those specified for paper forms. In particular, precision is necessary in the placing of some design elements, certain colours that are acceptable for paper forms are not suitable for OCR forms, and data capture fields (text and numeric data entry boxes) need to be designed to accommodate the OCR equipment.

As OCR technology is being used for an increasing number of forms with more varied design needs, additional design and structural aspects are constantly coming to light. To date these have largely been handled on an adhoc basis following advice from the FHU. The Forms Design Manual sections relating to the design of OCR forms, as well as the related range of objects and examples available in the standard Pagemaker libraries and templates have not kept up with the increasing scope and demand for OCR form elements. The Forms Consultancy Group (FCG) and FHU are jointly reviewing the standards and range of objects available with a view to updating them.

The 'refreshed' OCR standards will represent an updating and aggregation of existing FCG and FHU standards and practice on OCR design standards, with a major source being existing OCR forms that already include suitable solutions.

One advantage which will follow from this approach will be that form designers will save time using a standard set of Pagemaker objects because they will not have to invent, test or 'borrow' appropriate graphics and the objects used should meet FHU and scanning needs.

With two exceptions, the design features of existing OCR forms that are already in production are unlikely to be affected, and the aim will be to bring them up to date when major changes are made.
The two exceptions relate to:

  • standardising the size and position of the 'front of form' address label to obtain savings on postage and envelopes; and
  • a minor wording change to completion instructions to only ask providers to use black pen.

A draft of the updated standards and graphic objects will be circulated for comment in June, initially through the Economic Statistics Group Collection Strategy and Content Workgroup (CSCW). After comments have been received and any problems worked through they will be incorporated into the 'published' Forms Design Manual for use from September quarter onwards.

For more information, please contact Robert Burnside on (02) 6252 7816.

E-mail: rob.burnside@abs.gov.au