MS Excel Chapter 6: Forms


Section 6.1: Creating Forms

Forms should be simple and clear and include a title, overview, and instructions. Please follow these rules when creating forms,

Rule 1: Every form needs to have a clear and meaningful title in Cell A1.

A form without a title.

This form does not have a title. Students who use screen readers may struggle knowing what the content in the form is about. They may not know the worksheet is a form at all. Always include a title to give them a prompt or queue to know what they are supposed to see.

Example of an accessible form with a title and instructions on filling out the form.

This form has a title. Now the student will have an easier time figuring out what the form is about.

Rule 2: Only have one form on each worksheet

This worksheet has two forms. The key to accessibility is to make this content easy to navigate and understand. The two forms make it very difficult to get around. Screen readers will also not recognize two forms next to each other, so it is best to leave them on separate pages.

Rule 3: Use a simple format

Rule 4: Only shade the cells to define a section. Do not use color needlessly.

Rule 5: Always include instructions on navigating and completing the form in Cell A1.

Rule 6: Every form input field needs to have a label or instructions visible on the screen. A good way to do this is by making sure that every input cell is next to their label. In our example below, the Manager cell is located next to its input cell.

Rule 7: Do not leave any cells blank. Make it so that every single cell has to be filled out.

Rule 8: Input cells should be shaded to make them more visually discernable, using a color other than yellow. It is helpful to subtly shade the background of the input cells, to help them stand out from the rest. Be sure to keep in mind sufficient color contrast between shading color and text color. It is strongly recommended to avoid using any shade of yellow to shade input cells. This is because the box containing an input message for a cell is yellow, which would create color contrast issues.

Section 6.2: Data Validation

Think of Data Validation as a way to assist people to filling out the form correctly. They act like post it notes or hints with little instructions. When using Data Validation, be sure to give a clear message and provide all relevant information.

To use Data Validation,

  1. Create your form and click in one of the fill in boxes.

  2. Click the Data Tab, then choose Data Validation

  3. In the Data Validation Box, choose Input Message. Then type in some instructions that will help the reader with the form. Click OK. Your end result should show a yellow square with your instructions inside it.

Section 6.3: How to Provide Clear Error Alerts

Error Alerts are a great way to give people some guidance on whether they have filled out the form properly or not. To create an error alert,

  1. Choose a category you want an alert to appear for.

  2. Go to the Data Tab, then click the Data Validation Button.

  3. In the Data Validation Settings Tab, change them to suit your needs. In Error Alert, type in a clear message on what has to be changed in the file in order to continue with the page.

  4. If the wrong information is typed into the box, your warning should appear.

Section 6.4: Form Controls and ActiveX Controls

While form controls like buttons, and check boxes are really cool to use, the are not ideal for accessibility. Most controls require users who can only use keyboard to go through a huge number of steps. Sometimes it can take a very long time for a person to check even one box. This must be changed. Instead of making check boxes and buttons, try creating a more accessible way for information to be submitted. One example is a dropdown menu. Another is to have the user type the information after being given a few choices.

Section 6.5: Locking and Protecting

Forms should always be locked and protected. This is done to protect users from changing information by mistake. To lock and protect your form,

  1. Highlight the input cells, right click, and select Format Cells.

  2. In the dialog box, click the Protection Tab and un-check the Locked Option. Click OK.

  3. Go to the Review Tab of the ribbon. Select Protect Sheet.

  4. In the Protection Sheet Dialog Box, make sure “Select Locked Cells” and “Select Unlocked Cells” are checked. Everything else can be unchecked. Click OK.

  5. Optional: You can create a password.

  6. Now with your spreadsheet saved, a user will only be able to make changes to the input fields. If they tried to make changes, an alert message will appear.