User Interface Standards for Forms

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User Interface Standards for Forms

Dennis Schumaker


User interface standards are critical for both programmer and

end-user productivity. An important part of any application is

Application Maintenance Forms—and Dennis Schumaker

shows the strategy and the code you need to create them.


OUR company has recognized that forms design is

part art and part science. However, by critically

looking at the applications that we’d developed

over the years, we recognized that we could classify our

forms into two major categories:

Business Process Forms: These are forms created to

model the specific business process that the

application was primarily intended to automate.

Although we can identify some specific common

processes, such as adding, editing, deleting, filtering,

and printing (which are discussed later), the exact

nature of what the form will do is dictated by the

unique business process.

Application Maintenance Forms: These forms were

created to support ancillary business functions like

adding and editing information in various lookup

tables (or other supporting tables used within the

business application). Generally, all applications need

some of these types of forms. These forms tend to be

similar among all applications—building a form to

support adding and editing information in a lookup

table is essentially an identical business process in

any application.

In many cases, a programmer needs to know very

little about the specific business process being automated

to develop the appropriate Application Maintenance

Forms. However, a specific understanding of the business

process is needed to successfully design acceptable

Business Process Forms. Having recognized this

difference, it became apparent that these two different

types of forms would require different skill levels and

knowledge of the business process on the part of our

programming staff. So, we strove to develop user

interface design and coding standards that would not

only streamline our programming staff’s development

and take advantage of the differing skill levels, but also

increase their knowledge of business processes.

Our chosen user interface design for navigation is

based on using drop-down menus. Consequently,

Business Process Forms are typically found under our

Activities menu (see Figure 1), and Application

Maintenance Forms are found under an Administration

menu (see Figure 2).

Our IT department re-programmed the CD Collection

database (which is included in the Source Code file at to demonstrate the

standards. The remainder of this article will discuss

these standards and demonstrate how they’re to be

implemented using this simple database as an example.

This article will deal only with the development of

Application Maintenance Forms, whereas an earlier

article dealt with Business Process Forms.

Application Maintenance Forms

Application Maintenance Forms are typically found under

an Administration menu item. Under the Administration

menu item, for lack of a better name, we have a menu

selection called Table Maintenance (see the section

“Setting the order” later in this article).

In all of our applications, we generally have

supporting tables that are used throughout the

application for looking up values, names, and so forth.

Some applications may have 20 to 40 such tables, while

others have just a few. The CD Collection that we use as

our reference application has three lookup tables like the

one shown in Figure 3.

We were able to identify three major design

considerations that are common to all Application

Maintenance Forms, specifically:  ...


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User Interface Standards for Forms




Figure 1 Activities menu