How to Build Access Forms for Humans
When I was 17 years old, I worked at Wendy's. Within a few months, I had worked at each of the different stations: fry cook, sandwich maker, dishwasher, drive-thru window, and restocker. With each role, I had to learn a different set of skills.
Working with Access is much the same. It is a single piece of software, but it requires many different skills to master it as a whole. The skills for managing tables and relationships are different from the skills to create queries and feed them to reports, which are different from the skills needed to create user forms.
Why Creating Access Forms is Important
When you create a form in Access, you create what development circles know as a "user interface" (or UI, if you like acronyms). The thing about user interfaces is that they are essential in the way that having tires on your car is essential. It should be functional but so discreet that you don't think about how they are doing their job.
3 Tips for a Great User Interface
- Know why your user is there. What is a user's goal in opening this form? Is it to do data entry or to review existing information? Based on that, what is the first and most important thing for them to see when they open up a form?
- Consistency is key. Pick and stay with a color scheme and font to give the end-user a sense of comfort and stability. Look for opportunities to match the layout and order of data and fields using those things on other online forms or printed pages.
- KISS is in full effect. The phrase "Keep it Simple, Silly" is a classic rule. It is easy to overwhelm the viewer of a form with too much information. Exact layouts with visual whitespace are helpful to guide them. Simplicity and space are your friends.
How Can I Create a Great Access UI?
While it is up to you to learn your user's needs and patterns, I have some tips to help you get better and faster at whipping up Access forms to accomplish these goals. Using the built-in form tool is excellent, but you will usually need a few tweaks. It's especially helpful if you understand how to work with the sections that are added by default! In any form, you can use themes to configure fonts and color schemes consistently. The use of concatenation in text boxes can help your forms look much less blocky when reviewing existing data and creating more informative headers to guide your users.
I've got a quick demonstration of how to use all these Access elements right here:
Becoming the Go-To Access Person
Being the "Access person" takes practice and dedication. After all, you're the one who creates databases, designs the user interface, creates useful reports by crafting custom queries, and also writes some VBA code to streamline the whole process. The good news is that learning and getting better with each part of the process deepens your understanding of the entire Access database. Keep improving your skills across the different components to become the best Access person you can be!