ABS Forms Design Standards

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Best practice advice for anyone involved in question development, visual and experience design, and testing of survey forms

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About the ABS Forms design standards

This manual is designed for you to use as a resource. It will help you create statistical survey forms that collect good quality data and minimise respondent burden. 

The Forms design standards combines external and internal ABS scientific research to evidence-based principles and recommendations. These will help you create survey forms that are easier for respondents to understand and complete.

Forms design is a distinct field of scientific study that draws from disciplines such as:

  • Cognitive psychology
  • Social psychology 
  • Behavioural economics
  • Usability and accessibility 
  • Design and communications 
  • Applied statistics.  

Completing a survey is a unique activity which is influenced by each respondent's own characteristics and experiences. A respondent’s understanding of the survey completion task and their motivation to complete it are essential to getting the most useful and accurate responses from them.

The principles and recommendations in the manual provide prescriptive advice to support routine forms design activities, as well as more complex and unusual forms design issues. The standard designs and wording reflect those used in ABS forms.

How to use this manual

Use this manual when you design or develop forms for statistical surveys.  

This manual can also be used to guide the design and development of other kinds of forms (e.g. internal staff surveys and administrative forms such as compliance reporting or application forms).  

Use the manual in conjunction with other resources relating to survey content and materials. 

The term 'respondent' is used in this manual to mean the person who actually fills out the form or interacts with the interviewer.   

Examples included in this manual are illustrative only. They are a visual aid to provide an idea of what a particular principle or recommendation may look like in practice. The examples do not necessarily reflect the ABS standard question wording or represent the most up-to-date version of a particular question or layout. 

This manual does not cover absolutely everything related to forms design. There are also many other resources that cover forms design topics from a different angle or cover certain topics in more depth. Details of additional resources are provided at the end of each chapter where appropriate. 

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