Designing a Usable Entry Form

djc_bwBy Dave Camire

One area often over looked when designing an effective race application is the entry form. This is the portion of the application that the race entrant fills in with their personal data. This information is then entered into a computer for results processing. If done correctly, results processing and after race follow-up is a much easier task.

Avoid straight lines – Try to avoid using straight lines for critical information. Lines allow for too much creativity. Lines (or fill in the blank) allow users to write in cursive. This can be difficult to read depending on the legibility of the handwriting so printing is preferable. This is especially true during race day registration when an entrant in nervous or hurried and will scribble information. Instead use blocks (see sample entry form). This way you force the entrant to print, thus saving valuable time during data entry and reducing the need for name spelling corrections after the race is over. Also make sure the blocks are large enough to write in. Small blocks will defeat the purpose of trying to keep the information legible.

Sample Race Day Entry

Sample Race Day Entry

Give clear instructions – It a good idea to point out that the entry form should be filled in neatly and be complete. I like to include the following instruction on top of the entry: “Please print neatly and fill out completely (entries without age and gender will not be eligible for age group awards.)”. It is surprising the number of people who neglect to fill in their age and gender. Figuring out their gender usually is not much of a problem unless you are dealing with non-gender specific names like Pat or Chris.

Get the Vitals – The main part of your application should ask for first name, last name, address, city, state, zip code, age and gender. The mailing information is important if you plan to send this year’s entrants an application for next year’s event. Age and gender are important for age group awards.

Get the Extras – In today’s electronic society email has become very common. Email address information is worth gathering for several reasons. First, it will allow you to send updates on your event to entrants and it will give you another avenue for marketing future events. Not everyone has an email address, however almost everyone has a phone. Gathering phone numbers can be critical if for example you need to postpone at the last minute. Race directors in New England are faced with this challenge every winter.

Special divisions – Where applicable special categories (for example weight divisions and team/club designation) should be included on the entry form.

Waiver of Liability – The content of the waiver varies depending on a number of variables (municipalities, sponsors, weather conditions, etc.). There are other factors such as wheelchair athletes, baby joggers or pets you need to consider. All this needs to be included in your waiver. The Road Runners Club of America provides a boilerplate for waiver content. For more information see It is also a good idea to check with your legal council on this matter.

Signature – Do not accept any applications that are not signed. If the runner is under 18 then a parent or guardian needs to acknowledge the Waiver of Liability by signing.

No Refunds – If you do not intend on giving refunds, make sure to spell this out on your entry form.

Dave Camire has been timing races since clocks had hands. In between he made time to start the popular website, the BayState Marathon and the Mill Cities Relay among others.