Once you’ve digitised your paper form, you may think you’re now ready to go live with digital data collection. However, since your digital form is a very important aspect of your data collection, ensuring it’s accurate and of a high quality is crucial. This can only be done by investing time in testing it.

Why is it important to test your digital form?
It’s important to test your digital form because it must accurately convey what needs to be captured, and all information collected must be accurately processed. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the workflow of your form logical and correct?
  • Are all calculations/operators working correctly?
  • Will fieldworkers understand what is meant by every field/question?
  • Will the intended audience understand what they’re being asked?

Who should test the form?
Ideally, all stakeholders should test the form, including:

  • The person designing the form.
  • The entire data management team.
  • Data collectors.
  • Representatives of the intended audience.

How do I start testing?
You can start testing your form while it’s being designed. Focus on the phrasing and ordering of fields, as well as the grammar and punctuation used. Each field must be easy to understand and clearly explained. Also ensure that field options (e.g. Yes, No, Unsure) are consistently in the same order, and that they are coded consistently (e.g. Yes = 1, No = 0).

Focus on the phrasing and ordering of fields, as well as the grammar and punctuation used.

Once the form design has been completed, the rest of the data management team should start testing too. The team should meet to discuss the objectives of the data collection (if this hasn’t already taken place) before their testing commences and again afterwards to discuss their feedback. Keep in mind the end goal of testing – to ensure that you have a good quality digital form– and use any feedback that will help you reach this goal.

Once everyone is satisfied with the form, you should allow time for your data collectors to test it too. It’s important that the data collectors understand what is being asked and how to convey questions to respondents.

It’s important that the data collectors understand what is being asked and how to convey questions to respondents.

Testing by data collectors can either be done as part of a training exercise for the entire group or it can be done by a sample of data collectors prior to training. A good exercise is to have data collectors practice by asking each other the questions as a role-playing activity.

How do I test workflow/skip logic and validation?
If any skip logic has been used, it’s important that it works in the way in which it is intended to. For example, if you have a field that asks about pregnancy that should be skipped for male participants, check that this does happen. Similarly, if there’s validation on a numeric field stating that exactly 9 digits should be entered at this field, check what happens if you enter between 1 and 8 digits, or more than 9 digits. If answering ‘No’ at a specific field should skip the next field, you should test what happens if you answer ‘No’ and ‘Yes’.

Skip logic and validation are both very useful form design tools, but when not tested well enough, mistakes can easily creep in and this will negatively impact the quality of your data.

How do I test operators/calculations?
If there are any operators or calculations in your form, they must be tested carefully.

When adding operators, it’s a good idea to test them immediately after they’ve been added. This way, you can reduce the time you spend on testing them. If your completed form is lengthy, it can take a long time to run through it, and sometimes even to figure out which of your operators/calculations need to be reviewed (if there are multiple).

Similar to testing skip logic and validation, you must input various answers to help determine that your operators/calculations have been correctly set up.

How can I further my testing?
You can further test your form by conducting a pilot study using your new digital tools. This will enable you to test your new processes and iron out any difficulties there may be, and to test your form on your intended audience. Ask for . and review feedback from your audience, and make any necessary adjustments before rolling out your digital data collection tools.