The easier an order form is to navigate, the higher likelihood a prospective customer will not only be enthusiastic to fill it out but also purchase more items than she originally intended. Order forms can be created as catalog inserts, handed out as stand-alones in seminars or presented electronically in the context of a website. For the purposes of this article, the scenario will be that you're an author at an upcoming conference. Because the attendees may forget to bring their checkbooks (or may not be keen on schlepping a lot of book purchases around), you're going to have paper order forms available that they can pick up after your speech, fill out at home and mail back to you with payment.
Open a new document in Word and set your margins for 1 inch on each side. Choose a 10 to 12 pt. font that is easy to read, and use the same font throughout the entire order form.
Center the name of your business, your address, your business phone and fax numbers, your website and email at the top of the page. If you have a business logo, place it in the upper left corner. Insert six hard returns below your contact information.
Create an order grid by clicking on "Insert" in the top toolbar and then clicking on "Table." This opens a small window that asks how many columns you want and how many rows. Select "4" columns. The number of rows you designate is based on the volume of products you have to sell. Most catalog order forms have 10 to 20 blank rows that customers fill in themselves. To make this example form as easy as possible for the users, you'll create only as many rows as you have actual book titles. Let's say you have six romance novels. Enter the number "6" for rows and click "OK."
Manipulate the width of each of the columns by placing the cursor on the right-hand vertical line of any of the top boxes. An icon will appear with arrows pointing left and right. Click and drag, and it will automatically lengthen or shorten the width of all the rows beneath it. Make column number one a length of 3 inches. Make the remaining columns a width of 1 inch each.
Type the words "Book Title," "Price," "Quantity" and "Total" above the four columns. If you're selling something besides books at this conference, substitute "Product" for "Book Title."
Fill in the titles of each of your six books in the rows in column one. Again, a traditional order form would require the customers to fill in the products they want, but your goal for this example form is to make it as user-friendly as possible and save them the time of copying everything over.
Fill in the unit price of each book in column number two but leave columns three and four blank.
Go to the bottom of the grid form, insert two hard returns, and tab over until you are just below column three. Type the word "Total" followed by a line that is just below column four. Insert a hard return, tab over until you're under the word "Total" and type the words "Sales Tax." Repeat this step two more times and add the words "Shipping" and "Amount Due." Insert two hard returns.
Type each of the following words on a separate line followed by a colon and a line: "Today's Date," "Customer Name," "Street Address," "City, State and Zip Code," "Email Address" and "Phone Number." Explain in a separate line that the email address will be used only for confirmation of the order and that the phone number is requested in case there is any problem with the order or in processing payment.
Create a payment processing section on your form that allows customers to pay by check, credit card or via PayPal. For credit card purchases, they will need to identify the type of credit card being used, the number on the card, the date of expiration and the name of the credit card holder. Supply a signature line. For PayPal purchases, customers need only supply their PayPal account information (the email address under which the account is registered) and their signature. If they're writing a check, provide information for them on whom the check should be made out to and where it should be sent (which will usually be the address at the top of the order form).
Include information at the bottom of your form on expected delivery (such as "you should receive your order in 2 to 4 weeks"), refund policies and anything else you'd like them to know. Always include a "thank you" as the final line.
Keep your order form to one page, and strive for as much white space as possible. A cluttered order form that requires too much work to decipher is going to be a turnoff.
The number of columns you'll need for a form depends on how many choices the customer is expected to make (such as color, size and monogram).
Creating check boxes on your form (such as for credit card information) is very easy. If you're using Microsoft Office 2007, click on the "Microsoft Office" button in the upper-left corner, followed by "Word Options," "Popular" and "Show Developer Tab." This allows you to open "Legacy Tools" and incorporate check boxes and insert blank fields and pull-down menus. The latter two are especially helpful tools if you're creating online order forms. If you're using a program other than Microsoft Office 2007, do a help search on "create forms," and you'll be walked through the procedures for finding these same tools in your word processing program.
Keep your explanation of shipping costs as simple as possible. In the case of book orders, you'd say something like "$1.75 per book." For products where there's likely to be a high volume, provide a discount of 10 to 20 percent over a certain amount of merchandise purchased.
Don't make your row grid lines so narrow that customers have to print extra small.
If your inventory is defined not only by its product name but also by an item number, simplify the process for your customers by limiting the amount of numbers they have to type or hand write on your order form. For instance, a 10-inch Italian bowl with an item number of 37452000017656665 is a lot for someone to write down. If you carry only one type of bowl, a customer need only identify it as "Italian bowl" and you'll know exactly what it is. If there are bowls that all have different stock numbers, ask that they write only the last three numbers--in this case, "Italian bowl 665."