Ontario Digital Service | 2019

Power of Attorney Form - Discovery Research

Objectives of the Study: 

  • Perform discovery research to understand how users fill out a Power of Attorney form

  • Observe how users interact with the Power of Attorney form digitally vs. printed and design the online form based on feedback

  • To benchmark the usability of the Power of Attorney form

  • To gain insights on if the instructions distributed with the Power of Attorney form is useful to users

  • To gain insights on if there are any parts of the instructions users get confused by or need clarification on

  • To see how users would fill out the online document, through printing online forms, etc

  • To gain insights into the accessibility of the documents on and offline 

  • To gain quantitative measures, for example;

    • How many times does the user reference back to the information section

    • How long does it take to complete the form/task


Internal research only, no external participants.


Next steps were presented to stakeholders to inform the idea of an online PDF version of the Power of Attorney document as well as possible changes to the paper form.

Project / 

UX Research

Role / 

UX Researcher

UX Designer

Timeframe / 

2 months

Year / 


Research Plan and Script:

Testing Material:

Usability Test:

To begin the usability test on the Powers of attorney document I asked users if they were to fill out a Power of Attorney document would they fill the PDF out online or print it. Depending on the answer they were given either a printed or electronic version of the document. Users were then asked to talk out loud as they filled out the document, stating any areas of confusion or thoughts they had about the material or its structure. 

Users were also asked a set of questions throughout filling the form:

  • Step 2

    • What does “jointly and severally” mean on this step?

  • Step 9

    • Whom would you assign as a witness? What is their relationship to you?

  • Finish (After signing)

    • Do you think this form is legally valid now?

    • What would you do with the form now?

    • Did you know there were two forms within this packet?

    • Could you please explain the difference between the two forms?


Participants were then given the opportunity to express final thoughts they might have and which were not covered during the test​ as well as ask any questions that couldn't be answered during the test. 


Users were frustrated when navigating the online PDF

  • Users found the two-column format was readable for print use but hard to navigate when filling out the form online

  • Users struggled to find specific information within the document and felt they were missing important parts of the text because of how it is formatted

“I would appreciate if this was one column, I keep having to scroll up and down and I am missing information.”

“This layout is confusing, I have to move back and forth between instructions, the form and definitions.”

“I haven’t seen the form, it is a lot of information and the format is uncertain.”


Users were unaware that there were two forms within the kit

  • Users didn’t know there was a second form within the document after completing the first

  • There is no visual cue to alert users that they are transitioning forms

  • Users skipped over the first form on occasion

“I feel like we transitioned between two forms without me knowing.”

“Do I have to do both forms? Are they connected?”

“I did not know there were two forms within this packet.”

Users found the amount of information was hard to process

  • Participants found the document easier to process when bullets or lists were used and information was broken down

  • Chunks of bold and/or italicized text were intimidating for users and they found themselves skimming the document and having to reread and reference back

“You should have the information broken down in bullets, I felt overwhelmed with the amount of text.”

“I’m much more apt to focus if it’s in bullet form, I think would remember it quickly.”

“Huge bold block [of text] is a little intimidating, I would prefer it in bullets.” 


Some users found the tooltips useful when they could locate them

  • Tooltips helped users gain clarity on what information was expected to be entered in the fillable fields without having to go searching for information in the instructions

  • A few users completed ignored the tooltips when they were present

  • Background color and font size of the tooltips do not meet accessibility standards

“Unless I randomly scroll over it I don’t know there is helpful information there.”

“I keep forgetting about the yellow stuff, it has a lot of text.”

“What is that big yellow part? It’s just repeating information but it tells you what page to go to, so that’s helpful.”


Users found the calendar useful until they realized they need to print and sign with witnesses present

  • Users liked that the calendar formatted the date for them so there was no confusion surrounding the date notation on the document

  • Having the calendar as an option misled users to think the form could be electronically signed

“Drop down for calendar is very useful.”

“I would leave the date blank so when I printed to sign it I could fill it out as well.”

“Red does not meet accessibility standards.”


Users expected underlined text and important definitions to be

hyperlinked for further information:

  • Users also wanted to be able to reference helpful definitions while filling out the form without having to scroll through previous pages

  • Users wanted to know more about specific details that are underlined in the text, such as the Substitute Decisions Act and expected it to link to an external site

“Give me the definition in context or a clickable link that takes me back [to the definition].”

“I expected the underlined portion to be a hyperlink or definition.”


“I would like links throughout the document, I would use them.”

Users expected the people they appointed to agree and sign the document

  • Users were confused why there wasn’t a field for the appointee signature(s) in the Power of Attorney forms

  • Users wanted to be assured that their appointee(s) would be legally required to act on their behalf after signing the document

“Why doesn’t it call for an appointee signature?”

“Refusal shouldn’t be a situation you face because you have agreed to it in the first place.”

“Am I missing something? Don’t they have to agree somewhere to be my Power of Attorney?”


Proposed Next Steps:

  • Insert links throughout the document (back to definitions, information, links out to pages with further information, etc.)

  • Clearly communicate that the form cannot be signed electronically

  • Use visual cues to show users a tooltip is present

  • Break down information into readable bullet points and formatting should be changed for the webform

  • Test web form against accessibility standards

  • Test tooltips for length and content (see the example below)

  • After making suggested changes we recommend conducting further testing on the kit