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When I first started working with SAP output forms, I was asked to develop one that crammed a great deal of item-level information into a tight amount of space.  To accomplish this task, I needed to drop the font size for some text down to 6-point type, as well as switch the paper orientation from portrait to landscape, among other things.

It was a painstaking assignment, but I managed to squeeze in everything that was requested.

The result: The form was exactly what the business asked for… but not what they wanted.

What was wrong?  Well, for one thing, there were legibility issues when a form was faxed to an overseas location and then re-faxed from there.  In addition, there were several item columns that often sat empty while a few others — forced to be narrow to accommodate these columns — had to wrap over several lines, pushing a document to multiple extra pages.

With support from my business counterpart, I went back to the drawing board.

I took a step back and asked myself: If I was the intended audience for this form, how would it need to look?

Proper design elements slowly came into focus.  For instance, blank signature and date lines needed to have adequate space.  Rarely-shown item-level information was moved out of separate columns and into a single ‘catch-all’ row.  Critical header-level data was moved above less-important data.  And, of course, the form needed to be readable when faxed or photocopied, which meant resizing fonts and ‘lightening up’ shaded boxes.

Finally, we had a reasonable form.

Was it perfect?  Not quite.  However, it was several steps closer to something worth using.

This is part 4 of a series of Weblogs on SAP output forms.

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