How to fill out online forms

Forms are part of daily life. You might be booking tickets, buying a product, joining a group, applying for a driving licence, filling out a tax return, or a host of other things.

More and more forms are now available online. But don't let that put you off. The following guidance should help you get to grips with online forms - and put your mind at rest about any concerns you may have.

Form lay-out

Example forms

Print: How to fill out online forms

Most online forms are structured just like paper forms, with blank spaces for you to complete.

These blank spaces are known as boxes or 'fields'.

You click (or tap if using a touchscreen device) in the boxes and then type in the information requested.

Look out for the information that it's essential to include.

It's usually marked with an asterisk. Everything else is optional.

Handy shortcuts

You may find that the words you begin to type in are automatically completed.

Or you may be offered a drop-down menu which lists your choices. This can be a speedy way to provide your date of birth or travel requirements, for instance.

The form might also have 'radio buttons' (which look like circles). You click on these small circles to select options. For example, they might be used if you need to answer 'yes' or 'no' to a question. Once you've clicked on a radio button, the circle will have a dot in it.

A pop-up calendar may appear next to or below date boxes. This allows you to choose a specific date or a range of dates.

On some online forms you don't even need to fill in your address. If you type in your house or flat number and your postcode, the computer will find the rest of your address details for you.

Check carefully

You'll often need to provide your email address so that the owner of the form can contact you with notifications or receipts.

At the end of forms you may often be asked to tick a box - perhaps to confirm that you've read a website's terms and conditions or to subscribe to follow-up emails. Always remember to carefully read what you're agreeing to.

Sometimes you will need to untick a box. For example, you might need to do this to remove a product or service which has been included, but you do not wish to have.

You may be asked to set up a user name and password before you can continue filling out a form. This means that you can continue adding details on secure web pages where your personal information can be kept private.

Once you've started filling out a form, it's best to keep going and not take a break. If you don't type in anything for a while, most online forms will time you out (as a security measure) and you'll have to begin the process again.

Ready to send

When you have completed your form, you'll often need to click a 'Send' or 'Submit' button. Make sure you only click the button once. A double click could mean that you send the form twice or, in the case of transactions, pay twice.

If you've left out any of the required information you'll be sent back to the relevant part to add it in.

Otherwise, you're done! A message will appear on your screen. This will usually confirm that the information you typed in has been successfully submitted.

You may get further details, such as a reference number, and a confirmation message may be sent to you in a follow-up email. Check your email account afterwards - not just your inbox, but also your spam or junk folder, as a follow-up email may end up in there by mistake.

It's often worth printing out a copy to keep as a paper version in case you need to refer back to it. This can give you peace of mind, especially if you're worried about losing a reference number or accidentally deleting a follow-up email.

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