Sure your form looks good, but does it recognize

By Chris Riley, ECMp, IOAp posted 08-31-2010 13:41


Here you are getting mad at your paper forms for such poor recognition, not knowing it's probably your fault.  It’s easy to design a fixed handprinted form that looks pretty, but takes a little more effort to make it recognize well with handprint (ICR) technology.

ICR will never be as accurate as OCR.  Handprint changes per person, mood, and even time of the day the text is created.  For this reason, it’s even more important to pay attention to the quality of the document prior to scan. The difference between a form designed for machine reading and one that is not, is usually a reduction of uncertain characters by 60%. Clearly, the best way to ensure successful hand printed fixed form recognition is a re-design.  Below is a quick list of elements to consider in your form design.

  1. Corner stones: Make sure your form has corner stones in each corner of the page.  Usually in the form of black squares. The corner stones should be at 90 degree angles to each neighbor one and the ideal type is black 5 mm squares.
  2. Form title: A clear title in 24 pt or higher print with no stylized font.
  3. Completion Guide: This is optional but sometimes is useful at the top of the form to print a guide on how best to fill in the fields of the type you use.
  4. Mono-Spaced fields:  Each character block should be 4 mm x 5 mm in size and separated by 2 mm from its neighbor. The best types of fields to use are in order: letters separated by dotted frame, letters separated by drop-out color frame, letters separated by complete square frames.
  5. Segmented fields by data type: For certain fields it will be important to segment the field in portions to enhance ICR accuracy. The best example is a date field where instead of having one field for the complete data split it into 3 separate parts first being a month field, next a day field, and finally a year field. Same is often done for numbers, codes, and phone numbers.
  6. Element distance: Each element in the form should be separated from all other elements by 5 mm or more.
  7. Consistent fields: Make sure the form uses consistent field types listed in item 4 throughout the whole form.  Mixing types impacts completion of the form and during recognition reduces the value of pattern training.
  8. Form breaks: It is OK to break the form up into sections and separate those sections with solid lines. Too much separation can be detrimental, if done strategically it can be a large benefit for template matching.
  9. Placement of field label text: For the text that indicates what a field is “first name”, “last name”, it is best to put print it left justified to the left of the field at a distance of 5mm or more. DO NOT put the field descriptor in drop-out in the field itself.
  10. Barcode: Barcode form identifiers are useful in template matching and form identification. Use a unique id per form page and place the barcode at the bottom of the page at least 10 mm from any field.

#formdesign #ScanningandCapture #ICR