What is the current standard for online forms?

Whether it’s a PDF form, a contact form, a feedback widget, or a connected smart form; there’s a standard today that your audience either consciously or subconsciously expects from you online.

In this article we’ll help you identify the current standard of delivery expected for each of these formats so you can be sure you’re providing the best possible service level to your clients.

Let’s start with PDF forms and online documents

Gone are the days when it was acceptable or productive to supply your audience with Microsoft Word documents for printing or email of form submissions. Today the standard is the Portable Document Format (PDF) and for good reason.

A large part of the shift to PDF is that for the most part your audience will not be able to edit the layout of your PDF documents, and secondly because you can directly submit PDF forms right from your document provided you have an active Internet connection.

Technologies such as Adobe's LiveCycle allow developers to build connected PDF documents which can be submitted from your PC whilst maintaining a professional look and feel. If you haven’t considered using a connected PDF document before this option can be a fantastic way to save time and money when handling medium to large document volumes.

The simple contact form is not so simple anymore

One of the more common direct access points for spammers and bots online is your company’s contact form. By adding services such as reCAPTCHA to your contact form you can eliminate the majority of the bots, but contact forms are often a portal for irrelevant third parties to attempt to sell you something. Although there’s not a lot you can do about this, your contact form should still aim to be as simple yet informative as possible without deterring genuine customers, and potential customers, from filling it out.

A great way to do this is to break down what information is important to you, followed by the mandatory details you require, then add any extra items you think may assist you to enhance your contact form over time.

There are two schools of thought on this. The first is the super simple route which includes First Name, Last Name, and Email fields combined with an Enquiry box. The second is a lengthier format and includes these fields plus a Phone, Company Name, Website, and Address field (if relevant) combined with an array of questions around what the customer is looking to enquire on and how they came to find you.

Our team has had success with the second option and can definitely recommend it after trialling a few variations. We’ve found that the longer format has been no barrier to genuinely interested third parties and has provided a great deal of extra information for our marketing team whilst eliminating spammers.

Contextual feedback widgets. The unsung hero of the web.

If you haven’t added a service like Feedback Lite to your website before we strongly recommend it. Services such as this are a really affordable way to gather invaluable market research on niche topics and provide you with an amazing level of control around how and when you present your audience with your feedback forms.

From automated pop-ups windows to slider campaigns using a variety of formats, all tracked from a central enquiry management dashboard, online feedback widgets are awesome.

Audiences online have become very familiar with this format and those in the eCommerce space have been particularly quick to benefit from the feedback they’ve been able to garner using services such as Feedback Lite.

Whether you’re looking to undertake usability testing, grow your email subscriber list, rank content, or implement complex decision tree based surveys, online feedback widgets are a great way to go if your goal is to keep you visitors on your site and improve the quality of your online services.

Connected smart forms. An enterprise's best friend.

Chances are you will have used a connected smart form and not even realised it. Service providers such as Avoka provide connected smart form technologies that present as standard HTML web pages yet are connected to complex ecosystems behind the scenes capable of fulfilling nearly any kind of workflow.

These connected smart form technologies produce HTML web forms hosted online that when completed submit transactions to a central repository storing form submission data in PDF and XML format for record keeping and processing.

Services such as this can be easily connected to external payment gateways, applications, and internal systems ensuring continued use of form submission data. What this means for organisations using smart form technologies is that they’re able to process large volumes of form submissions, provide customer receipts, and connect those submissions with systems that can elect to utilise all or partial details of the form submission.

To understand the standard of online forms is to prosper...

Each week we work with companies both big and small who are in need of business process optimisation services. Nine times out of ten we find that these companies can significantly benefit from taking out the middleman and optimising the way they use online forms, and that’s where we come in.

From enhancing workflow designs to offering technical architecture advisory, to implementing forms-based solutions to support dynamic workflow reconfigurations, it’s amazing the difference in efficiency and cost effectiveness this can make to an organisation.

If you haven’t considered reviewing the way you implement and manage your forms online, get in touch with the helpful team at OSE.